NEWS

Vast Olympic security drill starts

As Giorgos Voulgarakis takes over as public order minister from his Socialist predecessor today, a huge Greek-US military exercise aiming to address potential terrorism threats to the August Olympics is to kick off at an undisclosed location in Greece. A Public Order Ministry statement yesterday said the secrecy-shrouded drill will be code-named «Shield of Heracles 2004» – alluding to an obscure ancient Greek poem – and would take place over the next two weeks «in various parts of Greece.» The ministry said 1,500 Greek members of the security forces and military personnel would be taking part in the exercise – the biggest of its kind to be held ahead of the August 13-29 Olympics – along with 500 people from the US, Britain, Germany, Israel and Canada. Together with the armed forces, members of Greece’s police, coast guard, fire brigade and secret services will be involved, as well as the Athens 2004 organizing committee, the General Secretariat for Civil Defence, the General State Laboratory, the Greek Atomic Energy Committee, the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Meteorological Service. «Under no circumstances will citizens’ everyday lives be affected,» the ministry statement said. The exercise is expected to take place in Attica as well as in Thessaloniki, Volos, Patras and Iraklion, where Olympic soccer matches are to be held during the Games – starting two days before the August 13 official opening ceremony. The 500 non-Greek participants will include a force of some 400 US troops, together with international security experts. A poem attributed to Hesiod, believed to have lived in the eighth century BC, describes a divine shield made for Heracles which had the personification of terror as its centerpiece, surrounded by Strife, Pursuit, Flight, Tumult, Panic and Slaughter.