- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

September 11th reminded all of us that no person or nation is immune from terrorism, and that protecting freedom and fighting fear are a common battle for all. People around the world embraced again the values and traditions that strengthen us, fighting back by proving to terrorists that they could not take from us the things we treasure most.

We renewed our commitments to families and communities. And, knowing their power as a source of unity and peace, we embraced international sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games. From Seoul to Salt Lake City, we saw that these contests are more than simply sporting events. They bridge differences among people and nations, and celebrate the human spirit and what it can achieve; they showcase what makes us alike, not different.

Those of us in Athens working to prepare for the 2004 Summer Olympics understand the historic importance of the Games as a symbol of peace and friendship across national boundaries. Three decades after Munich, however, the Olympic tradition comes with an even greater responsibility than before to take every measure necessary to safeguard the Games, so that athletes and spectators can participate in a climate of confidence and safety.

Greece takes this responsibility very seriously. In the past, some have questioned Greece's willingness to participate in a concerted effort against terror. Although Greece handles 12 million tourists a year with one of the lowest crime rates in the European Union, for years we made no visible progress in our battle against "November 17," our domestic terror cell. On these very pages, The Washington Times editorialized that "the Greek government has demonstrated that it is incapable of stopping these criminals," and suggested that President Bush pressure the International Olympic Committee to move the Games elsewhere.

But last summer, years of investigation and hard work of our government and police paid off. Greek security forces put a stop to November 17, with the arrest of 17 suspected members and seizure of a large cache of weapons and bomb-making materials.

The arrests are the highest profile results of what has been a systematic, well-funded and cooperative security strategy Scotland Yard support and American intelligence were both critical to the November 17 investigation since Athens won the honor of hosting the 2004 Games.

Greece will spend upwards of $600 million on security infrastructure and equipment for the 2004 Games the largest security budget in Olympic history, by far. The Greek government has created the Olympic Games Security Directorate (OGSD), uniting all security organizations under a single, responsive command structure. Field training has already begun: last November's "Operation Rainbow" was a fully successful response to a simulated terrorist attack on an airplane and a cruise ship.

The 2004 Organizing Committee's security strategy is being guided by the security chief for the Sydney Olympics, Peter Ryan. Site coordinators are already hard at work designing individual strategies for every Olympic venue. In August 2004, more than 45,000 trained security professionals will be deployed according to site-specific security plans.

America is supporting our efforts through the seven-member Olympic Security Advisory Group, and during the 2002 Winter Games, the organizers graciously allowed Greek security specialists to study and take part in every portion of the Salt Lake City security strategy.

While we have made great progress protecting security, we must and will remain vigilant. In the meanwhile, we appreciate the cooperation and confidence of our allies and partners as we prepare for 2004.

We appreciate that former President George Herbert Walker Bush has said he plans to come to the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. And we appreciate that President George W. Bush has recently and publicly recognized our nation's progress in combating terrorism.

Since September 11th, the responsibilities that come with hosting the Olympic Games have grown dramatically. Greece is proud to shoulder those responsibilities. An unprecedented Olympic security effort will allow us to host this extraordinary celebration of the human spirit, in safety for all who attend. That is our pledge as we face the work that lies ahead.

Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki is president of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.

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