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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: Athens step up security with more troops

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posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 02:54 PM
ATHENS (AP) - Athens ordered a major boost in military involvement in security for the Summer Games, and Greece's public order minister denied reports Wednesday of problems with its Olympic surveillance system.

An additional 35,000 military personnel have been assigned for "secondary" duties to help the 70,000 police and soldiers who will guard Olympic sites in Athens and three other Greek cities.

Police spokesman Col. Lefteris Ikonomou told The Associated Press the additional manpower will be used to guard railroad stations, borders and other areas, mainly outside Athens.

"The theater of operations is the entire country. ... The entire military is on alert," Ikonomou said.

Meanwhile, a homemade bomb exploded Wednesday near an electrical substation outside the Greek capital, causing damage but no injuries. It was not immediately clear if there was a link between the blast and the Aug. 13-29 Olympics. Also, Athens' main port of Piraeus was closed for nearly two hours as a navy minesweeper inspected the area where cruise ships will serve as hotels during the games.

Olympic security has stretched resources to the limit in Greece, which is spending a record $1.5 billion to protect the games. The military will provide 500 vehicles, 50 ships and more than 200 planes, including fighters to monitor a no-fly zone over the city. Athens has increased its security budget and commitments several times this year amid concerns over the first Summer Games since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

NATO is deploying a 200-troop force to deal with a potential chemical or biological attack and is assigning its entire Mediterranean naval fleet to patrol the country's borders. Three NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft are expected to arrive Friday at Aktio air base, in northwestern Greece. As for the city's elaborate surveillance systems, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis denied reports they are not fully operational.

The Athens daily Ta Nea said 20% of images from street cameras and other sensors will be lost because of delays in wiring the monitoring equipment and problems with the command center created to gather all the information.

"There is no problem with the system," Voulgarakis said after an Olympic planning meeting with Premier Costas Caramanlis and other officials.

"The security systems that Greece has purchased are in full deployment, they are all working smoothly, and the personnel who are using them have become familiarized with them."

Athens' massive surveillance grid, with 1,300 cameras, spy vans, underwater sensors, chemical "sniffers" and an airship, is at the heart of the security program.

"We have done whatever is humanly possible to offer the appropriate environment for grand sporting event," Voulgarakis said.

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