Security alert raised

The past week’s terrorist attacks in neighboring Turkey have prompted Greece to beef up security, moving step-by-step toward the level of preparedness that will be in place for the Olympics. Security at Athens International Airport has been increased, with passengers and luggage being searched thoroughly. Also, major security measures are being taken at the Athens metro, which is expected to carry 1.5 million passengers daily during the Olympics. Already, security patrols in the subway system have been doubled and it is also under guard when not in operation. The initial terrorist attacks on two synagogues in Istanbul last Saturday had prompted more stringent security measures around possible targets such as the Israeli Embassy, business interests and people. Thursday’s attacks led to intensified measures, such as the closure of streets around the UK and US embassies. «All the airport’s services and security authorities are in full readiness and prepared to contribute to the work of the police, who have undertaken the central planning,» an airport source told Kathimerini. «Everything is being done on the basis that Athens Airport is considered one of the world’s safest, as it is the hub which constitutes the first impression of pre-Olympic Greece.» Metro authorities are planning to introduce 20 mobile sensors for explosive and chemical materials (they have bought five already), alarm systems for breaches of ventilation shafts and tunnels, and special security supervision centers which will monitor hundreds of surveillance cameras. In addition, 24,000 gas masks will be bought. The metro’s central control system at Syntagma Station will be fortified, with bullet-proof windows and secure doors, along the Bank of Greece’s guidelines. Fifty company employees will undergo three months of training to deal with security issues and another 300 will be hired from a security firm for the Olympics. Palm-reading scanners will allow employees access to especially sensitive areas. All the preparations are expected to be completed within a few months. A major shortcoming is the lack of a central system for detecting chemicals. Although Israeli specialists had completed a study of sensitive areas by May 2003, Olympic security organizers have not provided the details to the metro operators (AMEL). Although AMEL officials say it is too late to put it in place, they might still have time to put sensors in air vents.