Atlanta is prepared to keep 1 million people safe when the Super Bowl hits town, city leaders said Tuesday. But with the federal government shutdown showing no signs of ending, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said it is not known how that will affect the city’s ability to successfully host the biggest game in sports.
“Obviously we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that’s gone on this long,” Bottoms said Tuesday. “We are preparing as best we can from our vantage point.”
Bottoms and several law enforcement leaders spoke Tuesday morning about the city’s final preparations before the Feb. 3 game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields said after two years of planning, her department is ready, along with more than 40 other law enforcement agencies that will be assisting during the 10-day Super Bowl period.
“Our goal is for our officers to be visible. For the public to feel safe. Be safe,” Shields said. “And to be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with.”
Groups from Atlanta visited Minneapolis and Houston, the two previous cities to host the Super Bowl, to gain insight into security preparations. Plus, Atlanta has already hosted several big events, including the SEC Championship game in December.
“We are so ready for this event,” Shields said. “We have prepared well.”
But the city can only do so much to prepare with the ongoing government shutdown, Bottoms said.
“I do believe we are as prepared as we can possibly be,” the mayor said. “Certainly there are factors that we don’t control, such as what’s happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines.”
Fans visiting for the Super Bowl won’t arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport all on the same day. But getting out of town will be a different story.
“There’s what we call ‘Mass Exodus Monday,’ and it’s my hope that some folks will delay their departures until Tuesday,” Bottoms said. “It’s my hope that by then, the federal government shutdown will be history. And that things will go as smoothly as possible.”
Chris Hacker, FBI special agent in charge for Atlanta, said federal agents take an oath to protect the public. Regardless of whether the shutdown continues, hundreds of FBI agents will be involved with Super Bowl security.
“Nothing will change for the Super Bowl,” Hacker said.
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