Big Brother gets hearing aid

Microphones that will listen to street noise during the Olympics are being added to surveillance cameras around Athens to improve security, the government said yesterday. «If there is an explosion, we must be able to hear the sound in real time,» Public Order Giorgos Floridis said. «We can’t wait for someone to make a phone call.» The decision could add to protests against a giant surveillance system being installed around the capital – part of a security program worth over 650 million euros and due to include more than 40,000 police officers and 10,000 soldiers. Several demonstrations against Olympic security are being planned for this month. Last month, the mayor of Nikaia in southwestern Athens – where the Olympic weightlifting event will be held – had municipal workers spray-paint three cameras which locals found intrusive. During the Olympics, stationary cameras around Athens will operate from 1,250 concrete columns 12 meters tall. Hundreds of cameras will also be installed at venues and other points around the city, in addition to surveillance equipment on helicopters and a blimp. Floridis insisted cameras will be vital for security and flatly denied that the cone-shaped microphones will be used to monitor conversations or broadcast instructions to bystanders. «Of course they will not be used as megaphones. .. They will be used, simply, to transmit sound and pictures in real time,» he said. «We will abide by the rules of privacy protection.» Also yesterday, Floridis said Russian experts will help Olympic security planning by sharing intelligence on potential terrorist threats and providing mobile labs to detect weapons of mass destruction. Floridis visited Moscow earlier in the week. (AP)