OPINION

No guns in the stadia

US press reports insist that the Greek government will finally allow foreign security officers, mainly American agents, to carry weapons during the August Olympic Games. This is contrary to repeated statements by Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, who has said that athletes will be under the exclusive protection of Greek forces. Foreign governments’ concern over the security of their athletes was to be expected. On the other hand, they have to understand that exaggerating the perceived threats does not serve the ultimate goal. Foreign countries cannot possibly demand the assignment of foreign armed agents or bodyguards when this is prohibited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) even for the escorts of prime ministers and state leaders. Greece should not make such a concession, nor does it have any intention of doing so, the government has said. Longstanding bilateral agreements and standard international practice have covered the issue of security for dignitaries when moving around the city. These customary practices will no doubt also be followed in the Greek capital during the Summer Games and therefore all the media brouhaha about permitting foreign armed security agents is meaningless. It is hard to convince even the most naive person that this whole media circus is aimed at reinforcing the safety of foreign dignitaries. Under mammoth pressure from foreign states, the Greek governments were forced to spend record amounts on security, far more than any other host country has in the past, so as to set up a security network to stave off the most unthinkable types of threats – a demand by the most powerful countries. Some took advantage of the situation in order to prompt the now-departed Socialist administration into purchasing controversial security devices like the blimp. Greece spent more than half a billion drachmas on the airship despite the knowledge that it cannot fly when the wind reaches 5 on the Beaufort scale. As everyone knows, strong northerly (the meltemia) winds blow in Athens during August. The government has done everything it can to ensure that the Athens Olympics will run smoothly. It has cooperated with many countries, showing good will and a conciliatory attitude. A few weeks short of the Games, it is time for these self-serving circles and their affiliated media to stop undermining the upcoming event.