NEWS

Olympic security takes center stage

Top government officials held their first major meeting on the progress of preparations for the August Games yesterday, as protests were held in Athens and Thessaloniki against an ongoing Greek-US major Olympic security drill, which enters its operational phase tomorrow. The meeting, under Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, focused on security planning and delays in certain crucial Olympic construction projects. Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki also attended. Meanwhile, demonstrators marched to the US Embassy chanting slogans against the presence of armed American troops in Greece for the exercise, code-named «Shield of Heracles.» Marchers also protested against the heavy security measures planned for Athens during the August 13-29 Olympics. A similar march was held in Thessaloniki. The two-week exercise – the largest of its kind held in Greece ahead of the Games – entered its second day yesterday under a news blackout. So far, the drill has focused on gathering and sharing information. The operational part is expected to start tomorrow. Around 1,500 Greek military personnel, police, coast guard, fire brigade and secret service officers will be participating, together with some 400 armed US soldiers. The drill is expected to take part in Attica – with possible action in Thessaloniki, Volos, Patras and Iraklion, where Olympic soccer matches will be held. It will test responses to potential terrorist threats, such as an attack with a crude, «dirty» nuclear bomb. Yesterday, the Reuters news agency said it had obtained a document from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency according to which the IAEA would help protect the Olympics against any nuclear threat.