Tight security as Athens braces to let in 2004

About 500 policemen in uniform, together with riot police and plainclothes cops, will be deployed in the center of Athens tonight to ensure peaceful New Year’s festivities. In the meantime, the police leadership claims that they see no danger of a terrorist attack, as feared in several cities all over the world. Top police officers say that the main reason for the deployment will be to prevent any incidents like those that marred last year’s festivities, when scuffles broke out at Syntagma between Albanian and Kurdish immigrants during a concert, forcing other spectators to flee the scene and giving rise to complaints about the lack of security. However, the police forces’ deployment plans show that terrorism is a concern, even though it may not be as high as in other cities like Istanbul, which will keep celebrations to a minimum. Uniformed police will patrol the area around Syntagma Square starting early in the afternoon and will search suspicious-looking individuals, as well as those who try to enter the site of the festivities too obviously drunk. Plainclothes police will mix with the crowd in order to intervene quickly if incidents occur. Finally, riot police will be deployed nearby and will only intervene if absolutely necessary. This time, the concert stage will be in the open space next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In past years, it was near where the carousel is, near Ermou St. The program will begin at around 10.30 p.m. but streets around the square will start closing to traffic much earlier. According to an announcement by Attica police, traffic will gradually close beginning at 5 p.m. The streets affected will be Stadiou St., from the intersection with Amerikis, Voukourestiou between Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets, Vassileos Georgiou between Amalias St. and Syntagma Square, Othonos between Amalias and Syntagma Square, Vassilissis Sophias Avenue between Amalias and Sekeri streets and Amalias Street between Olgas and Sophias avenues. The traffic restrictions will end at 4 a.m. tomorrow.