2004 security cost to rise to over 650 mln

Greece boosted the Athens 2004 Olympics security budget by about 25 percent to over 650 million euros in a surprise move yesterday expected to calm international concerns over safety arrangements. From frogmen diving at the port of Piraeus to snipers on the Acropolis, organizers aim to lock down the city for the Games in the most expensive security operation the Olympics have ever seen. Until Wednesday, government officials were saying the cost of security, the organizers’ top priority, would be about 515 million euros. But Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis said additional needs to safeguard the Games had pushed the budget up. «The security budget will exceed 650 million euros,» he told reporters during a presentation of the Games security plan. Police officials said hundreds of sports venues, hotels, cruise ships, archaeological sites, ports and airports across the country would be sealed off 40 days before the start of the Games. Each venue will be surrounded by a fence and, where possible, by a second fence with a security cordon in between along which police cars, ambulances and fire engines will be able to move. There will be four designated entrances – for athletes, officials, journalists and spectators. Only vehicles with accreditation signs will be allowed within a radius of 50-400 meters from each venue, although in cases where this security zone includes inhabited areas, local residents will be issued passes. Parking restrictions will apply to an additional 100- to 1,000-meter broad band, particularly on roads designated as approaches to the venues. The government last month prepared the ground for a security budget increase, saying the Games’ total 4.6-billion-euro budget could swell by as much as 10 percent due to new security needs. Floridis put the number of police, soldiers and coast guard directly concerned with security next August and September at 41,000 – double that for Sydney 2000 – with the overall total involved at 70,000. (Reuters, Kathimerini)