NEWS

2004 security worries Australia

Australian Olympic team members in Athens for the 2004 Games could be banned from leaving the Olympic Village due to possible terrorist threats, team officials in Canberra said yesterday. After last year’s Bali bombings in Indonesia, which killed 89 Australians, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it believes there is a chance Australians could be targeted in Athens. For that reason, the AOC is mulling restricting athletes to the Olympic Village and competition venues. «Bali rammed home to us that the security of athletes is paramount and we have to do everything possible to protect athletes and officials when we go to the Athens Games,» AOC communications general manager Mike Tancred said. «The situation as it stands now is that we may consider making downtown Athens, the restaurants and the bars and the nightclubs, off limits. We may stress to the athletes that we can protect them inside the village and they may be limited to inside the village.» Tancred admitted that forcing athletes to remain in the village would be difficult. «We can’t physically lock them in the village,» he said. «They can leave but we will be stressing that for their own safety they should remain in the village. A final decision hasn’t been made yet because it’s still 12 months away.» Meanwhile on Friday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Greece’s state NET television that Washington’s pursuit of terrorist groups will improve security at the Athens Olympics. «We want the Games to go off without a hitch, without any trouble. We hope that the way we have terrorists on the run will also contribute to having a much safer environment for the Olympics,» he said. Safeguarding security during the Games will be a «major challenge» for Greece, Powell said, adding that the US has assisted Athens in that effort. «We are providing the systems, we are providing support, we are providing any information we can provide to make sure that we have a safe Olympics.» (AP, AFP)