NEWS

2004 security bill set to exceed 1 bln euros

The security budget for the Athens Olympics has climbed to 1 billion euros ($1.19 billion) – nearly four times what was spent protecting the Sydney Games four years ago, a top official said yesterday. «About 1 billion euros is the money which the Greek government will spend on security issues,» Fanni Palli-Petralia, alternate culture minister coordinating Athens’ preparations, told The Associated Press. Plans to safeguard the August 13-29 Games are the most expensive and extensive in Olympic history. The previous estimate was more than 672 million euros ($ 800 million). «With security, we are not cutting any corners. Whatever is possible to do is being done,» Palli-Petralia said. The rising security expenses have added to the bloated Olympic budget. On Tuesday, the government announced that the Olympic budget is about 1 billion euros ($1.19 billion) more than the 4.6 billion ($5.4 billion) earmarked for the Games. Palli-Petralia predicted the final figures would be higher. On May 13-16, NATO and Greek Olympic security forces plan a joint exercise in one of the last major drills before the Olympics. The exercise, called Olympic Guard 2, will test terrorist scenarios with the participation of NATO forces, Greek special forces, anti-terror squads, intelligence units and police. US commandos may participate as well. (AP)