Athens ready to stage a safe final

Athens geared up yesterday to host the Champions League final as English and Italian soccer fans began arriving in the city, where more than 15,000 police officers are on duty to ensure one of the world’s biggest sporting events passes off without serious incident. In a security operation similar to the one launched for the Athens Olympics three years ago, some 7,500 policemen went on duty yesterday. Around 50,000 soccer fans are due to travel to Athens for the final between Liverpool and AC Milan at the Olympic Stadium. It is estimated that some 15,000 supporters will arrive in the city without tickets for the game and much of the security operation will focus on making sure these fans do not misbehave. English fans are likely to outnumber Italians two to one. Some 150 officers from Britain will help Greek police in their efforts. Policemen from Italy will also be in the Greek capital. English and Italian fans are being kept apart once they arrive at Athens International Airport, with Liverpool supporters being directed into the city on buses and Milan fans by train. Police will also set up three security zones around the Olympic Stadium to ensure that fans without tickets or those carrying prohibited objects, or appearing to be drunk, will not be allowed into the ground. Roads around the stadium will also be closed from tomorrow afternoon but authorities said that the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway, which stops at the Olympic Stadium, will run through the night tomorrow. Authorities plan to use paintball pellets in different colors to identify any rioting fans at the final. It would be the first time for this sort of equipment to be used in Greece. The paint marks will help officers pick out troublemakers so they can move in and arrest them. Also, should they fail to apprehend any suspects at the time, the marks will help officers identify potential hooligans later. Meanwhile, police unionists threatened yesterday to unfurl a banner during the final to draw attention to their complaints about pay and working conditions. It has been suggested that some 200 off-duty officers have tickets for the game and could try to grab attention for their cause. In a separate development, a man was arrested yesterday for attempting to make a huge profit by selling match tickets on the black market. The unnamed travel agent from Athens was allegedly offering tickets to fans at almost 18 times their face value of 140 euros.