Greece eyes the security business after Olympics

Greece, emboldened by the success of its security operation for the Athens Olympic Games, hopes to sell its safety know-how to future Games cities, the minister who was in charge of the operation said yesterday. After spending a record 1.2 billion euros and deploying half of the country’s armed forces to safeguard the first Summer Games since the September 11, 2001 attacks on two US cities, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said there was a wide market for Greece’s new expertise. «We consider this vast experience as a product for export,» Voulgarakis told reporters. «It will of course be in line with the country’s foreign policy.» Voulgarakis said his ministry had been flooded by inquiries from countries interested in areas from Olympic Games safety to financial crimes. He named countries like China and Italy, which host the next Summer and Winter Games respectively, as well as Bulgaria and Malta, who are seeking to control illegal immigration and financial crimes, as among nations lining up to find out more. «The image of Greece has changed. We are now considered as a country which is serious about security,» Voulgarakis said. He said that prior to and during the Games, Athens’s deployment of more than 70,000 security personnel, as well as a range of surveillance and listening devices, including a blimp, led to a sharp drop in petty crime, theft, drugs-related incidents and illegal immigration. The Greeks also set up the first ever Games advisory group comprising seven nations – Australia, Israel, Britain, Spain Germany, the United States and France – and signed security agreements with another 32 countries. NATO was also called in to aid in sea and air patrols as well as against any chemical and nuclear threats. Voulgarakis said that apart from unconfirmed intelligence about possible attacks on some targets from Western nations as well as Russian and Israeli targets, the security curtain kept major attackers at bay. «We were busy, though, with incidents every single day,» Voulgarakis said of 86 cases which triggered major security alerts. «During the opening ceremony there was a bomb threat and we responded as if it was a real one,» the minister said. «We soon realized it was a hoax but our forces dealt with it as if it was an actual bomb.» Voulgarakis said the ministry was setting up a Planning and Research Center to investigate ways of transferring know-how and training to other countries. «We are in a position to use this experience… and can be very proud of having organized the best Games in the past decades.»