Even the best-laid security plan can't always prevent a terrorist attack. But good intelligence and proper training can certainly reduce the risk.
"In a free society, it's almost impossible to protect yourself against the lunatic fringe," said Charles Prouty, a member of the FBI's Olympic Response Force involved in the Centennial Park bombing investigation.
Agent Prouty told about 250 people who gathered for a daylong Explosive Threat Conference at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center that providing security at an event like the Olympics was a logistical nightmare.
"It was the largest Olympics ever, with 11 million tickets sold - more than Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona combined," he said.
In addition to athletes and spectators, there were celebrities, heads of state, politicians and a security force of more than 30,000 people who handled an assortment of very diverse duties, he said.
At Lake Lanier, for example, a floating, 16,000-seat stadium was inspected daily by a dive team trained to look for explosives, he said. Sophisticated security systems and intelligence networks were in place to combat attacks.
"But despite all those precautions, the unthinkable happened," Agent Prouty said. "Could it have been prevented? I don't think so."
The growing threat of terrorism at home was the focus of Wednesday's conference, which was sponsored by Westinghouse and the Department of Energy.