IT was supposed to be the safest place on earth. A 30,000-strong security force - the largest peacetime security contingent in America - and the injection of US$303 million (HK$2.34 billion) were supposed to keep the terrorists out. 'It's horrible, the worst fears . . . something we can't control,' said Games spokesman Bob Brennan. Officials had promised to make Atlanta the most secure place on the planet during the two weeks of the event. Security was the main worry for International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch. 'Today the risk of terrorism is higher than before. Today you have people ready to die for religious or political ideas. It makes the fight against terrorism much more difficult,' he said. Nervous organisers were on alert after the downing of the TWA Boeing 747 off New York two days before the opening, the truck bomb at a military base in Saudi Arabia last month, and last year's Oklahoma City bombing. Under their protection are 15,000 athletes and coaches, three million visitors and 15,000 journalists. Uniforms are everywhere, bomb detection units were installed at each venue, and metal detectors placed at all spectator and media entrances. Roads around the Olympic Ring area were closed to traffic, and the athletes' village was open only to those whose 'hand geometry' was recognised by computer sensors at the entrances. On the streets of Atlanta are security guards, police, 14,000 military personnel, 12,000 National Guardsmen, the elite Navy Seals, five sheriffs departments, anti-terrorist forces, chemical warfare specialists, 2,000 bomb-disposal experts and 40 sniffer dogs. In plainclothes are CIA, FBI, Secret Service and Defence Department agents. Nearly everyone seems to have security passes hanging around their necks. The encoded passes are checked by light identification devices. But the precautions were not enough to stop the blast that shattered the peace of these Olympics. There were no security checks for the thousands in Centennial Olympic Park. The words of Mayor Bill Campbell now ring hollow. 'I believe Atlanta will be the safest place for the duration of the Games,' he had said. The public was more sceptical. A poll showed 51 per cent believed there would be a terrorist act at the Games.