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AVIANO, Italy — First lady Laura Bush, her daughter Barbara and a gaggle of past Olympians will visit airmen at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy on Friday before heading to the start of the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin later that day.

Bush and a presidential delegation to the Olympics will arrive at the Aviano base Friday morning, said Lt. Nicole Dubnicay, spokeswoman for the 31st Fighter Wing.

“She’s thanking the troops for their service to the country,” Dubnicay said Wednesday, adding that the visit will be open to all military identification card holders and their dependents.

Details on where the event will take place have not been released, she said, but troops will be informed of the particulars as they emerge.

“We’ll provide guidance on where people should go as it gets closer,” Dubnicay said.

Former Olympians scheduled to make the visit include gold medalists Kerri Strug and Dorothy Hamill, along with former Olympic bobsledder and football star Herschel Walker.

Bush arrived in Italy this week, according to accounts in the Italian news media, and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Pope Benedict XVI in Rome before heading north.

The first lady’s visit might not be all Olympics and pomp and circumstance. Anti-capitalist demonstrators have threatened to disrupt her visit to the games, according to a Washington Post report on Tuesday.

Italy has heightened its police presence in Turin and the Alps, and is spending more than $100 million to ensure safety for the tens of thousands of spectators and athletes who will attend, according to The Post.

Italian protesters hampered the Olympic flame’s progress toward Turin, The Post reported, and security chiefs are assessing the international situation, particularly since riots broke out recently over Western editorial cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, the spiritual center of the Islamic religion.

The games begin on Saturday and run through Feb. 26.


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