ATHENS (AFP) : Athens airport will impose a policy of strict segregation to keep Olympics Games visitors and run-of-the-mill tourists apart when they
arrive in the Greek capital.
Over 21,500 flights are scheduled to pass through Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos international airport in August with 800 flights carrying 72,000
passengers touching down the day before the opening ceremony which takes place on Saturday week.
Once on the ground athletes and Olympic personnel will be cut off from regular passengers under special arrangements to ensure maximum security. Part
of the main terminal building has been turned into an Olympics zone, and a new arrivals lounge will be at the disposal of visiting heads of state.
"The idea is that the Olympic family doesn't come into contact with 'regular' passengers," explained the airport's assistant director, Ioannis
Parashis on monday.
Some 2,500 athletes, trainers and journalists have already arrived.
Commenting on the strict segregation policy adopted for the Games a security advisor told AFP on Monday that it meant "a rapid evacuation" could take
place in the event of an emergency.
The airport is being protected by 1,000 police officers in addition to the airport's own 700 non-armed band of security guards.
One major headache for the airport authorities is the task of coping with the mass exodus from the Olympic host city once the world's largest sporting
event draws to a close on August 29.
"The arrivals are spread over a two week period - departures in two or three days, that's not going to be easy," noted the same security expert.
With Games-bound visitors accounting for only about 10 percent of the 1.8 million passengers expected Parashis says they've done everything they can
to ensure the heightened security arrangements disrupt regular traffic as little as possible.
"We want to minimise as much as we can the repercussions of the Games on the bulk of passengers," he said.
[Edited on 2/8/04 by TRD]