Blending in to play it safe

RALEIGH, North Carolina – As a precaution, United States track and field athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympics might be discouraged from wearing red, white and blue or anything with «USA» when they are not competing. «For security reasons, if that’s the way they want to go, that’s what we’ll do,» said United States men’s athletics coach George Williams, also coach at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh. USA Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer said Monday that «off-track uniform issues are governed by the US Olympic Committee.» «Coaching and managerial teams always look at a number of security issues before any international competition, including clothing,» Geer said. «For the 2004 Games, the Olympic team is within the oversight of the US Olympic Committee.» A spokesman for the USOC did not return a call seeking comment on whether that organization was considering such a proposal. Greece is spending more than $750 million for security – the biggest security budget in Olympic history and more than three-and-a-half times as much as what was spent for the 2000 Sydney Games. Authorities plan to deploy about 50,000 security personnel – including 16,000 soldiers – during the Games. Williams said track officials have suggested ways to lower the profile of American athletes around Athens. «They said it would be good if we low-keyed it,» he said. But he added: «Some of us are going to look American. We’re going to have our Bermuda shorts on and our white tennis shoes. It’s going to be hard to do.» In Athens on Monday, a seven-nation security advisory group met to discuss plans for the Olympics. Officials from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, Israel, Spain and Germany meet regularly to review progress on security plans. Greek police said the closed-door meeting lasted about two hours and included a discussion of the international security environment. No further details were made public.