‘Not a militarized Games’

Security plans to protect the Athens Olympics would not turn the Greek capital into a military camp, organizing committee chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said yesterday. With multi-nation drills planned in coming months to protect the Games against possible nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said security always came first and «vigilance» would be maintained until the Games end. «We are doing whatever is humanly possible to provide the world with safe and secure Games,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki told Reuters Television in an interview. «But these will not be military Games.» She said Athens organizers knew from the «first minute» after learning about the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 that their security plans had to move into high gear. Organizers and the Greek government are now continually updating their security needs as intelligence and the global situation changed, she added. In a sign of the ever-changing security needs, Greece this week raised the number of direct military personnel on duty during the Games by 2,000 to 10,000. It also said 40,000 more troops will be on call including forces sealing off the EU member state’s borders with Albania, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria prior to and during the Games. Greece is spending a record 650 million euros ($806.4 million) on security and has already said it will mobilize about 40,000 police and security staff, in addition to the military personnel, three times as many as in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. «We have to remain vigilant and sensitive to every single change in the atmosphere,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. Commenting on Athens’s need to set a frantic pace to finish venues and upgrades on the infrastructure before the Games open on August 13, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said the time for even making new plans had passed. «There is no time for plans anymore,» she said. «What we do is execute what we planned before and if this is impossible we have a plan B, a contingency for all occasions.» Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, on a visit to Moscow yesterday, said Greece is particularly interested in Russia’s expertise on chemical and biological attacks. Floridis stressed that Moscow is playing a concrete and significant role. «The cooperation developing with Russia is productive, good and fruitful,» the minister said at the end of two days of talks in Moscow. The discussions centered on the organization of security cooperation ahead of the Games, above all the exchange of information, and also the provision of direct assistance during the Games should this become necessary. Greek officials had earlier said intelligence gathering on terrorist threats, including those possibly posed by Chechen rebels, are a key part of the security plan. Floridis, who met with the heads of Russia’s foreign and domestic security services as well as the head of the Security Council, declined to discuss the origins of possible security threats. «At this point in time, there is no information originating from any place in the world to cause worry or threaten the staging of the Olympic Games… however, we continue preparations for all possible and impossible scenarios,» Floridis said. Greece also has requested backup support from NATO allies and is working with a seven-nation security advisory group. Russia is not included in this group. (Reuters, AP)