NEWS

Olympic security planning to include NATO, Russia

Security preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympics are at a good point, officials said after a meeting of government and security officials chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Greece was cooperating not only with a team of seven countries to prepare for the Games but was also doing this within the framework of NATO and had added Russia to the list of advising countries, they said. But Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of Olympics preparations said that the consortium led by US company SAIC, which has been chosen to provide electronic security equipment, could improve its performance. Asked if the government was happy with the consortium, he replied: «No. We would like a better response, greater speed and better cooperation within the consortium, but these things happen in many contracts, either in the private or public sector… But because everyone knows how serious the issue is, I am certain that everyone will show their best self… Because this is very important for their own interests, aside from their contractual obligations.» «We are doing everything possible to anticipate anything that could happen,» Simitis told a Foreign Press Association luncheon earlier. He said that security planning had not changed after recent terrorist attacks in Turkey as such incidents were already included in plans. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, who is in charge of police and other security services, said that anti-terrorism exercises were planned for February and March. The earlier one is believed to concern radioactive, biological and chemical threats while the later one will test Olympic security in its entirety. The participants at the meeting discussed the possibility of Simitis himself supervising these exercises. They discussed the outcome of a planning exercise held in Stuttgart in early November, the greatest test of Olympic security so far. Other issues included better coordination among all ministries involved, a public awareness campaign regarding security measures and determining the level of cooperation with other countries. «What we did today was to evaluate the point at which we are and what needs to be done. We ascertained that we are at a very good point with regard to timetables… and we set out the next priorities,» Floridis said. Venizelos said Russia had been added to the team of countries offering advice. He said also that Greece’s military forces were involved in security preparations and «therefore, military planning takes into consideration the general military planning of NATO.»