OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Security threat played down

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

JUAN Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee, denied that yesterday's bomb attack on a pipeline 30 miles outside Barcelona at Vilafranca, said to be the work of the extreme left-wing group, Grapo, posed any threat to the Games, which are taking place under tight security.

'I don't think you can say that it is a threat because the incident took place nowhere near an Olympic site,' he said. Police dismissed any possibility that the the explosion was the work of either Basque or Catalan separatists.

Samaranch also defended the Olympic movement against the charge that they have become over-commercialised during his 12 years in office. 'Without that commercialisation the Olympic Games would have come to an end. It has to happen if the taxpayer is not to be faced with paying everything. It is impossible to hold sports events on this scale without it.'

Pasqual Maragall, mayor of Barcelona and president of the Games organising committee, played down fears of any action by Catalonian nationalists interrupting today's ceremony at the Montjuic stadium. 'You needn't worry,' he said. 'There will be no political demonstrations which will upset these Olympic Games.'

Meanwhile, athletes from Yugoslavia, who will be allowed to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag, were being flown into the Catalonian capital in a plane specially chartered by the International Olympic Committee.

Also arriving here yesterday was Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, who expressed his satisfaction at South Africa's return to the Olympic movement after an absence of 32 years. 'I must confess that I didn't think I would ever see this day and I'm very happy it has come,' he said.

The Games got underway, in advance of today's opening ceremony, with a football match between Italy and the United States at Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium.

In the Olympic village, Britain and Denmark have lodged a protest over the arrangements for the badminton tournament, where only four pairs have been seeded in the men's and women's doubles respectively.

'We are very disturbed by the news,' said the assistant team manager, Ciro Cinoglio. 'If our pairs do not make the top four seeded places they could be forced to play seeds in the first round.'