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Security tight for Games -

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Broadcast: 10/08/2004

Security tight for Games

Reporter: Mary Gearin

KERRY O'BRIEN: Australian and British athletes have been rated at medium risk as terrorist targets
in the Olympic village for the Athens Games, which hopefully will not be as ominous as it may

In fact, Greek officials are claiming Athens will be the safest place on earth during the Games.

With a security bill totalling about $1.7 billion, the Greek government has gone all out to allay
fears and to protect athletes and spectators by deploying a security force of 71,000.

Mary Gearin reports from Athens.

GEORGE VOULGARAKIS, PUBLIC ORDER MINISTER: I believe that we have done whatever was humanly
possible for someone to do in order to provide the proper environment for security.

MARY GEARIN: Never have the games that promote humanity relied so much on weapons of war and tools
of surveillance.

A brave new world has come to this land of ancients.

The ever circling blimp now a daily reminder for Greeks they must be ready for the worst the world
has to offer.

DORA BAKOYIANNI, ATHENS MAYOR: What we know is that our security measures are the best security
measures ever in any kind of Games because we are the first after September 11.

MARY GEARIN: And the Greek government wasn't afraid to open up the coffers to make it happen.

GEORGE VOULGARAKIS: The truth, of course, will be known after the end of the Games because we
realise that the environment was so severe, it was so tough, we didn't like to do reductions in
security measures.

So, we spent a lot of money without counting the money.

MARY GEARIN: All the Public Order Minister, George Voulgarakis, will admit to is a security bill
probably topping 1 billion euros or about $1.7 billion.

Greece has a big point to prove after years of global scepticism about whether it could repel a new
wave of terrorism.

Peter Ryan oversaw security at the Sydney Games and helped set up the advisory council for Athens.

PETER RYAN, IOC SECURITY CONSULTANT: There's more openness now, more willingness to show people
what's going on, whereas before there was something of a reticence of actually admitting what was

MARY GEARIN: What is happening is the deployment of 70,000 police, soldiers and other armed
personnel around a total of 62 sites considered to be of security risk, including the 37 official

Backing this formidable security force is the high-tech military machine of Greece and its NATO
allies, including the United States.

Anti-aircraft missiles are in readiness, patrols by land, by blimp and by sea use the state of the
art surveillance even under water.

DORA BAKOYIANNI: In this unstable world where everybody listens to different media reports from
around the world, I believe that Athens during the games in August will be the most secure place to

MARY GEARIN: Hopefully, the elaborate security precautions will never be put to the acid test.

MARY GEARIN: The Greek government would have you believe the blitz has been the ultimate deterrent,
that no chatter or terrorist plans have been picked up on intelligence channels.

GEORGE VOULGARAKIS: We have liaisons with all the secret services in the world and from all this
system we do not have any piece of information that any threat exists here in Greece.

MARY GEARIN: Greece boasts one of the lowest rates of crime in Europe and the massive Olympic
security effort can only add to the Greeks sense of safety.

On the other hand, locals say chaos is such a part of their lives and culture, they're not likely
to be lulled into thinking security measures are foolproof.

Decades of fighting their own domestic terrorists have given them a sense of perspective.

Greece has long battled assassination campaigns from extreme left groups.

The most organised and effective being one called November 17, most of whose members have now been

Athens mayor Dora Bakoyianni's own husband was assassinated by November 17 back in 1989.

She says the threat of terrorism should not be allowed to overshadow the spirit of the Games.

DORA BAKOYIANNI: If the Olympic Games are anything, they are the symbol of all of the values we
believe in - human respect, human rights, so I will not give up, I didn't give up 15 years ago and
I won't give up now.

MARY GEARIN: But with so much at stake, are the Greeks suffering from pre-Games jitters?

Last week Olympic authorities were forced to apologise after an embarrassing scandal.

Mexican TV crew members alleged they were kidnapped and beaten by Hellenic coastguards after trying
to film the port of Piraeus without permits.

MANUEL RAMIREZ, TELEVISA MEXICAN TV: Everybody needs to cooperate with security but security must
understand we're working here just to expose the good things of Greece in our country.

MARY GEARIN: Regardless of that incident, Peter Ryan says using a police force that was once part
of the armed forces poses a challenge.

PETER RYAN: One of the big concerns being expressed to me by visitors and by journalists and others
is they've found the police rather abrupt, tend to be rather abrasive in the way they handle some

We've seen some recent issues where journalists have allegedly been manhandled by the police.

I think it's just an initial settling down response.

MARY GEARIN: Some of those most affected by the security effort will be the competitors themselves,
staying in the fortress which is the athletes village - so secure that police told the 7:30 Report
to stop filming after just one minute.

While Australian athletes have not arranged extra security, like the US and Israeli athletes, every
move will be watched.

Jeff Bond oversaw the mental health of Australian athletes at the Institute of Sport for nine
winter and summer Olympics before leaving last year.

He says more than in any other games, highly strung athletes in Athens could react badly to their
heightened incarceration and that could affect performances.

JEFF BOND, PSYCHOLOGIST: I think some athletes will get hassled by the frustration of having to
queue up and be checked and have their bags checked every time they turn around and rather than in
those down periods when they're not training and competing being able to switch off and wander
around the village and have a look at Athens itself, they'll tend to stay inside because it is just

GEORGE VOULGARAKIS: They'll be guarded by our people, our intelligence.

They're going to have maximum security.

MARY GEARIN: The Greek Government gets frustrated then by comments from foreigners.

JOHN HOWARD, PM, JULY 28: I worry about their safety, I do.

I can't honestly say to you that I'm certain that they're going to be fully protected.

I just can't be certain of that.

DORA BAKOYIANNI: I think if I asked your PM if I can be totally certain of my security visiting
Sydney or any other city in Australia, he would probably say the same thing.

This is the truth around the world, but what your PM and your armed services know very well is that
there is nothing which we could do which we haven't done.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Hopefully that will end up the least of the athletes worries.

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