- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Greece, the smallest country to hold the Olympic Games in modern times, is in the final stage of preparations for the largest-ever Olympiad, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said yesterday.

The mayor is in Washington to touch base with officials at the National Security Council and State Department on arrangements for the Games.

At a press conference organized by the Western Policy Center, Miss Bakoyannis said $1.2 billion was being spent on security for the Summer Games — “four times as much as at Sydney [in Australia in 2000] and five times more than Atlanta spent in 1996.”

Among the most dramatic contributions is the use of NATO’s fleet of Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS), which will hover over the land and the coastal waters of Greece to spot any unusual movements or communications.

“We are deploying 70,000 police and military security people, again four times more than at Sydney,” Miss Bakoyannis said.

Olympic security is the responsibility of the Greek Ministry of Public Order, which has created a special unit for the Games. The ministry is generally credited with the recent cracking of a local terrorist ring known as November 17.

Greece is working to plan security with a seven-nation Olympic Advisory Group comprising the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Israel and Spain. The Olympic Organizing Committee also has hired security specialists from the Sydney and Salt Lake City Games as consultants.

Asked who makes the decisions in the event of a terrorist attack, Miss Bakoyannis said representatives of the various countries were coordinating activities. Asked whether she could be more specific, she gave a one-word reply: “No.”

Miss Bakoyannis cited other record-setting statistics — the attendance of teams from 202 countries, 11,000 athletes, and 21,000 journalists and technical assistants. The total cost of the Games was set at $8.2 billion, counting infrastructure projects, which have been in the works for nearly a decade.

Like other Greek leaders who have traveled to Washington, Miss Bakoyannis expressed optimism that Greece “will surprise the world and stage a safe and successful Olympic Games.”

When the Olympics were first awarded to Athens, the decision was celebrated as a return of the Games to the land of their origin, 28 centuries ago.

But a wave of international terrorism after the September 11 attacks in the United States created a security cloud over the Games and drove up costs far beyond expectations.

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