NEWS

Shield of Hercules ‘a success’

A major Olympic security exercise focusing on terrorist threats and carried out with the participation of armed US special forces was successfully concluded this week, the Public Order Ministry said on Wednesday. «The exercise was generally agreed to have been a success,» a ministry statement said. «It also showed international cooperation to be the most powerful weapon against any threat that could have disturbed the safe and normal organization of the Olympic Games.» Code-named «Shield of Hercules,» the two-week drill started on March 10, just three days after New Democracy won the national elections. Some 1,500 Greek military personnel, along with police, coast guard, fire brigade and secret service officers, took part together with officials from the Athens 2004 organizing committee, the General Secretariat for Civil Defense, the General State Laboratory, the Greek Atomic Energy Committee, the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Meteorological Service. Some 400 US special forces soldiers also took part, while security experts from another eight countries – Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Israel and the US – participated as «players.» Chinese, Russian, Italian and Canadian officials attended as observers. «The exercise was based on a scenario involving a counterterrorism response, with a succession of incidents involving asymmetric threats and handling the consequences,» the ministry said. The simulated incidents included security system breakdowns, bomb blasts, chemical warfare attacks with huge loss of life, a plane hijacking and an epidemic disease outbreak. As part of the drill, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis chaired a crisis-management meeting of 10 ministers and the Athens 2004 president.