NEWS

‘Greece overreacting to Australian travel warnings:’ IOC official

CANBERRA (AP) – Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Kevan Gosper of Australia said yesterday that Greece and the IOC had overreacted to Australia’s travel warnings about the Athens Olympics. The updated advisory from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade came after bomb attacks in Athens last week at the start of the 100-day countdown to the Games. «Australians in Greece are advised to exercise caution and keep themselves informed of developments that might affect their safety,» part of the advisory said. Greece and the IOC criticized the move, but Gosper, a senior member of the IOC, said the advice was credible. «It contains good and sound advice to people traveling in Greece and that’s a normal responsibility of a government, to upgrade that level of advice if there’s been some incident as there was in Greece last week,» he told the Nine television network yesterday. «But people should keep it in perspective. It doesn’t alter the plans of the Australian Olympic Committee to send the team away. There’s very close contact between the Australian government, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Olympic Committee and everything is still on course,» he said. «So I’m a bit surprised at the overreaction by the Greeks themselves and any member of the International Olympic Committee in Europe at the moment.» Gosper said he realized his comments contradicted some of his IOC colleagues, who were angry about Australia’s travel warning but said it was not their job to criticize the Australian government. «These are sensitive times for the Greeks; there’s been a lot of pressure on them and I can understand some anxieties,» he said. «But it’s not our policy in the International Olympic Committee to criticize Australian governments or any other government in the world. I think the International Olympic Committee should remain calm,» he added. [«There are some places where we know there is terrorist activity and clearly we would be not performing our duty to Australian citizens if we didn’t highlight those places where the chance of encountering terrorism is higher than other places,» Agence France-Presse yesterday quoted Australian government spokeswoman Chris Gallus as saying. Gallus said the travel advice was the result of consultations with spy agency ASIO, international intelligence reports and the diplomatic post in Athens.]