Olympic double vision

Yesterday’s bomb attack on the Kallithea police station was a wake-up call. Not due to the significance of the attack itself, because it was neither big enough to cause much damage nor in a place or time where it could injure passers-by. But it showed that on the issue of Olympic security the way in which we see such incidents in Greece is wildly out of synch with the way the rest of the world does. And in this time of satellite television and the Internet – with the inherent risk of mistakes and exaggerations and over-dramatization – Greece must not only do everything to make itself safe, but must also be seen to be safe. In terrorism, where the symbolism of an event is sometimes even more important than its magnitude, location and timing are all. And the Kallithea attack brought together all the necessary ingredients for a major story. It came on the 100th day before the start of the Athens Games, a milestone which focused the whole world’s attention on Greece. It played on the fear of mass terrorism, as the Athens Olympics will be the biggest and most symbolically significant event on a global scale since September 11, 2001. Understanding the significance of this, Greece is sparing no cost and working with several nations and NATO. But we in Greece saw yesterday’s attack as another insignificant act of bravado by extreme left-wing sympathizers of domestic terrorist groups who are now in prison – an embarrassment but not something to get too worried about. For the rest of the world, though, the blasts raised questions about the ability of the Greek authorities to protect the Games when they cannot protect their own police stations. Instead of our accusing foreign media of mistakes, exaggeration and bias, it would be most useful if the perpetrators of the attack were caught. Because in fighting terrorism, as in terrorism itself, acts are more important than words.