NEWS

Report claims serious Olympic security lapses

Greece and the organizers of the Athens 2004 Olympics reacted angrily to a report by the Washington Post on Saturday which claimed that security planning for the Games was «beset by problems.» The government described the claim, based on «confidential government reports and (US) administration officials,» as groundless, while the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee decried what it called «fantastic scenarios and hyperbole.» Athens has budgeted 600 million euros for security during the Games, an unprecedented amount, and has brought together experts from seven countries to prepare for the Games. It responds testily whenever anybody questions the preparations. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis declared earlier this month that usually, a few days after critical press reports, «somebody turns up and asks to see us and offer us their good services.» The Washington Post report referred to the extensive security planning but also described what appeared to be serious lapses during last August’s test events. Quoting «intelligence reports circulating within the US government,» the newspaper said the lapses included «one that allowed a test agent disguised as a pregnant woman to carry a mock bomb through a checkpoint and another to plant a fake device on a ferry.» The report also quoted law enforcement and intelligence agencies describing «disorganized police forces, breakdowns in maritime patrols and serious concerns over the slow pace of counterterrorism planning.» It added that «security personnel from around the globe said an August test revealed serious, if correctable, deficiencies.» The newspaper quoted Foreign Minister George Papandreou saying in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters earlier this month that «security is on track.» Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said on Saturday that Greece was cooperating with the security services of the United States, Britain and five other countries and that Greek police had carried out tests «in the best possible way.» He dismissed the report. «Naturally, these scenarios which appear in reports are groundless. There are interests which believe that they can pressure us. Naturally, we ignore them. We are moving ahead and will carry out the safest Olympic Games ever,» he said. Athens 2004 added that it had «provided Olympic-level security services to only some of August’s sports events… Beyond all the fantastic scenarios and hyperbole, there is only one reality: Greece is working hard to organize a completely safe Olympic Games,» it said. Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, said in an interview with the Athens News Agency yesterday: «I believe that everything humanly possible has been done on this issue, but no one can provide 100 percent guarantees on security issues for any occasion.»