NEWS

USA to provide expertise for Olympic Games security

The activation of bilateral agreements with the United States is expected to legitimate the presence of Americans in Greece in March for a major Olympic Games security exercise. There had been thoughts of a special law to help bypass any constitutional obstacles, but early elections don’t allow time for such a plan. The NATO umbrella was also ruled out, on the grounds that it might cause more problems than it would solve, and it presupposes a range of international agreements and securing the consensus of several states. Bilateral agreements are also expected to be the means by which the US supplies Greece with specialized equipment. During his recent trip to Washington, Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis received confirmation that the US is willing to supply any equipment requested. US satellites will be used during the Games to collect information concerning security matters. The framework for managing such data has been decided on, and the data will be channeled to Greek services which will have the final responsibility for evaluating it. Sources involved in security planning for the Games say this means that the US will be the principal supplier of information to the Greek authorities, since it will be practically impossible to cross-check information they provide on a specific threat with other sources. During the Games, a flight ban will be in force over a large part of Attica and other parts of Greece, to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack by air. During that period, a large part of the Greek air space protection mechanism will be devoted to protecting that no-flight zone. The provision of specialized equipment includes detectors that can locate and deactivate specific threats such as atomic weapons, and the expertise needed to operate them. Assuming that the cost of acquiring such equipment and training people to use it would be too high and would involve equipment and expertise that would not be required in Greece after the Games, the government decided to request help from other countries. The most likely source was the US, since few countries possess such equipment and expertise or would be prepared to let Greece use it. In fact, the Americans have toned down their complaints and criticism about security for the Olympic Games in Athens. They seem considerably less concerned, as Floridis noted. This change of attitude is due to the fact that the US is not only being kept up to date on security preparations but is actively participating in planning and exercises. That is one of the arguments the Greek side used repeatedly to rebut criticism in the past: «The Americans cannot complain about the planning, since we are planning together; they are participating through the Olympic Advisory group in the development of the whole program.» The crucial factor in the change in American attitude was an exercise on paper in Stuttgart last October. Designed by the Americans, the exercise included the most extreme scenarios: «They were so extreme that if they occurred they would destroy not just the Games but the whole country,» a Public Order Ministry official commented. The team handling Games security was tested against extreme events and gave a convincing display of their ability to respond successfully to any crisis. Through the supply of equipment, expertise and information, the Americans have ensured their constant presence in the security field, inside knowledge, and to a certain extent the management of any crises, which has reassured them on the ultrasensitive issue of security.