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Public Order Ministry gives a polite ‘no’ to armed guards for VIPs

“The Royals are coming for the Olympics,» were the words of one country’s ambassador in early April to the Ministry of Public Order when he announced that his country’s royal family should be expected in Athens during the Games in August. And he was not the only one to inform the ministry that it can expect numerous A-list guests, as announcements increase daily in the runup to the Games. Almost every head of state from the countries participating in the Games will be in the Greek capital this summer. Thousands of dignitaries are sending in their itineraries for the duration of the Games, normally attached with a list of requests. As far as the Public Order Ministry and the heads of security during the Olympics are concerned, the requests it receives mainly concern visitors’ desire to be accompanied by their own security staff. The political leadership of the ministry, as well as high-ranking officers, however, politely respond that this is not possible. Weapon-free venues According to a ministry source, the cornerstone of the Olympic security program is the refusal of entry to Olympic venue to anyone carrying weapons – any deviation from this basic rule could have dangerous results. «The security staff of each dignitary all have different training, different mentalities and a different estimation of potential dangers. Basically, nobody can know how they will react in the event they feel they have located a threat. Simply put, the armed escorts of one delegation would be unable to recognize the armed escort of another and, if they see someone else carrying a weapon, they may perceive them as a threat. Imagine what could happen in such an event,» explained one official at the Public Order Ministry. The Greek authorities are therefore obliged to insist that security is the exclusive job of local forces and, by outlining what measures have been taken for the protection of dignitaries, it becomes quite clear that these strict measures are absolutely necessary to ensure a safe Olympiad. Complex planning The protection of official guests has developed into a highly complex task for local authorities. «It is not like organizing security for a big summit meeting, for example, where all officials are concentrated at one specific location, follow the same itinerary and are all in the country at the same time. «During the Athens Olympic Games, each dignitary has an independent schedule. Most select the dates they will be in the country depending on the day an athletic event they are particularly interested in watching takes place. Furthermore, they will all be staying in different places. Many choose to stay in accommodation belonging to their respective embassy, for example,» explained the ministry official. What this basically means is that the authorities have to design a security plan and make arrangements for each individual dignitary that fits into the overall program, and is based on their schedules. This will be the case even if a person’s plans include visits to areas outside the sports facilities. «We have made the necessary arrangements to cover all these angles and we outline our security program to all the diplomats who come here with requests from dignitaries. Up to now we have had little trouble convincing them that the officials of their countries will be safe in Athens,» added the ministry official.