Expert warns of lax security at airport

Security personnel at Athens International Airport lack the expertise needed to handle the increased responsibilities for the Olympic Games, a former security chief claimed yesterday. Panayiotis Tassopoulos, who quit his post in August, told the Eleftherotypia daily newspaper there was a «tragic» lack of coordination between the airport and security planners. «About the people who have taken up key positions and responsibilities for security at the airport, I have a clear opinion and serious concerns – as their former director – in terms of their expertise, experience of security issues and crisis management skills… particularly in light of the Olympic Game,» Tassopoulos explained. A spokesman for the airport flatly denied the claim. «All personnel are adequately trained and have long experience,» according to the official, who asked not to be identified. «There are no problems with the security of the airport.» Airport security is among the key concerns for organizers of the August 13-29 Games – the first summer Olympics held since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Greece has budgeted more than US$750 million on 2004 security, the highest amount in Olympic history and more than 3.5 times the money spent for the 2000 Sydney Games. Athens plans to deploy about 50,000 security personnel – including 16,000 soldiers – during the Olympic Games. Athens’s Eleftherios Venizelos international airport, with some of Europe’s most advanced screening systems, opened in 2001 to replace an outdated seaside airfield which had often been cited for security failings. «It is my responsibility to point out these (problems) especially since it is eight months before the Games, so that changes can be made by those in charge,» Tassopoulos said. (AP)