A costly obsession

The cost of organizing the Olympics in a climate of obsession with security measures has been much greater than even the most pessimistic of us could have imagined at the beginning of this seven-year marathon. We already knew about the International Olympic Committee’s entourage of contractors and organizers – a fact which aroused public mistrust. But no one could have anticipated the disastrous consequences of the September 11 attacks. This can be seen in the exorbitant amounts spent on the security system – more than 1 billion euros – but also in the widespread mistrust prevailing in the international community, and indeed in many countries actively involved in security planning for the Olympics. Even US officials are at a loss to explain the obsession of foreign journalists with terrorism and the Olympics. They themselves do not perceive a security problem. Indeed, they believe that the frenzy of security debates and exercises may actually be deterring would-be terrorists. The only thing they appear to be concerned about is gas canister bombings – not because of any potential threat they may pose but because most of the foreign public cannot understand that such attacks, if one can call them that, are almost always truly insignificant. And so they end up harming the image of Athens that so much effort, and money, has been invested in promoting.