SPORTS

Olympic chiefs meet secretly on security

PARIS – Top European Olympic officials from a number of countries that support America’s invasion of Iraq have held a secret meeting about security for the Athens Games, sources have confirmed to AFP. The discussion was organized by the French National Olympic Committee (NOC) and the officials met over lunch last Thursday at a hotel close to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The meeting consisted of NOC chiefs from Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland and France, which is not a US-ally in Iraq. The German NOC was also invited and sent a government security expert to the hastily called rendezvous. Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland have been key backers of US Iraq policy. According to sources involved in the meeting, athletes’ security at Athens and the possibility of the five nations funding a joint insurance policy for the Athens Olympics in case of a terrorist attack were on the agenda. It is believed that the initial idea for the meeting came from Spain, following the Madrid bomb attacks that killed nearly 200 people. «It was all very hastily arranged,» said one NOC member involved in the talks. As details of the meeting began to leak out, there have been rumblings from other European NOCs which are concerned there could be one security law for the «major» NOCs and another for the smaller delegations. «Why do they need to hold their own secret talks? This is something that affects all European NOCs,» one senior NOC official told AFP this week. Security has been put top of the list at a meeting of European NOCs and chefs de missions in Belgrade in early May to discuss the Athens Games. «Questions as to why these five had to hold a secret meeting about security will no doubt be asked,» added that NOC official. The Athens Organizing Committee, which will be at the Belgrade meeting, has been asked to include a security expert in their delegation to answer questions. The Athens Games will be the most heavily guarded event in the 108-year history of the Olympics. A specially formed Olympics advisory group of seven countries – Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Israel and the US – meets monthly in Athens to provide advice about security measures. And Russia also provides expertise. More than 50,000 members of the security forces and emergency services will be directly involved in protecting the athletes, officials and visitors. Armed Greek guards will also be placed on team buses on their way to and from stadia. The total cost for Greece will be more than 650 million euros ($820 million) – three times what Sydney spent four years ago. NATO is expected to provide air-and-sea surveillance to protect the August Olympics from chemical, biological or radiological attack. In the past, NATO has provided protection to member countries at summits, ministerial meetings, as well as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Despite the massive security, several countries plan to bring their own guards to protect their athletes when they are away from the protected athletes’ village. Last month, British newspapers said undercover guards would accompany British and American athletes when they leave secure zones, such as the Olympic Village and sporting venues, and go into public areas. It is understood that countries regarded as high risk – such as the United States, Britain and Israel – will be allowed to bring their own experts. Sources have told AFP that Spain is also considering bringing in security guards.