NEW YORK (GreekNews) – Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis on Wednesday underlined that responsibility for Olympics security remained exclusively in Greek hands, in a statement issued in response to articles appearing in the foreign press.
“It is impossible for me to follow rumors regarding Olympic security, which are leaked on an almost daily basis, particularly in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. Once again, I wish to stress that the Greek authorities are exclusively responsible for the security of the Games, and they are doing whatever is humanly possible for the Olympic Games to take place in a safe and secure environment,” Voulgarakis said.
Voulgarakis also clarified that only current and former heads of state visiting Greece during the Athens Olympics in August will be allowed to bring their own armed escort. Accordingly, athletes and their support teams would be accompanied by their own security escorts but that these would not be armed.
He also categorically denied the presence of foreign troops of any nationality during the Games. “There will not be any army, whether American, French or Portuguese, nor snipers on the rooftops or other facilities,” the minister said.
The Minister of Public Order was commenting on a report by the NY Times saying that “under intense pressure from the United States, Greece will allow 400 American Special Forces soldiers to be present at the Olympic Games”. The article was also claiming that under NATO auspices and Greece will also permit American, Israeli and possibly British security officers to carry weapons,
“The delicate arrangements, which the officials say will not be formally acknowledged for fear of roiling anti-American sentiment, represent a significant departure from Olympic tradition, as well as from Greek law, which prohibits foreign personnel from carrying weapons within the country”., was claimed at the article.
Both the Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld and the State Department Spokesman, Richard Boucher declined to comment on the security details, but they were adamant in stating that security is the responsibility of the Greek government.
“We are all cooperating very closely with the Greek government,” Boucher said, adding that “security is the responsibility of the Greek government and in this field of responsibility it has, of course, the cooperation of the US, NATO and of other countries which are cooperating closely with the Greek authorities which they are supporting in their effort to achieve Olympic Games security.”
“Greece is closely cooperating with NATO and NATO answers the requests, thoughts and proposals of the Greek government. They have a very close cooperation for many weeks now and one believes that they have proceeded in all the necessary steps,” Rumsfeld said when asked on the role which the American forces and NATO will play.
He also told the journalists at the Pentagon that there was no bilateral negotiations between Greece and the U.S., stating with emphasis that the security of the Games “will only be a NATO mission.”
NATO’s Council of Permanent Representatives decided to deploy a special anti-terrorist unit if deemed necessary by Greek authorities, during their regular meeting held in Brussels on Thursday. According to well-informed diplomatic sources, this special unit would be stationed at the NATO base in Germany throughout the duration of the Athens Olympics, ready to intervene on Greek soil should Greek security forces request this.
The unit is comprised of several people of various nationalities and is specially trained in dealing with a range of terrorist attacks, according to a diplomatic source.
Following the decision the Council made on Thursday, NATO’s contribution to Games security is nearly complete. NATO has already provided AWACS for air surveillance, it has intensified and broadened patrols in the Mediterranean, and it has made available a special anti-terrorist unit in case of a biochemical attack.
THE US FORCES
According to the latest Congressional Research Service report, dated April 30, 2004, the State Department will spend $2,763,000 for 150 Special Agents to be assigned on temporary duty to Athens and environs prior to and during the Olympic games. The funds cover airfare, per diem, lodging, shipment of armored vehicles, local transportation, and other support costs. (See Department of State, The Budget in Brief – Fiscal Year 2004. S. 2144, the proposed Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, FY2005, Sec. 205 directs the Secretary of State to seek, to the extent practicable, reimbursement from the U.S. Olympic Committee for security provided to the U.S. Olympic Team by the Diplomatic Security Special Agents during the 2004 Summer Olympics. S.Rept. 108-248 was filed on March 12, 2004, and the bill was placed on the Senate legislative calendar on March 18).
The American area in the Olympic Village will have special security arrangements. Aside from the Department of State, Greek officials have consulted with the National Security Council, Departments of Justice (FBI), Homeland Security, Energy, and the CIA.
The Department of Defense reportedly will position an aircraft carrier, other ships, and rapid reaction forces in international waters off Greece before and during the Olympics.
In an advisory published on July 21st, the Department of State suggests caution to American tourists during the Olympic Games period.
“The U.S. Government remains deeply concerned about the heightened threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. Any large-scale public events like the upcoming Olympic Games, therefore, could be the focus of terrorist acts or other forms of violence. U.S. citizens planning to attend Olympic events or participate in any large-scale public gatherings during the Olympic Games are advised to use caution and to be alert to their surroundings at all times. As security increases in and around Olympic venues, terrorists may shift their focus to more unprotected Olympic venues, open public gatherings, secondary hotels, cruise ships not docked in protected ports, transportation systems, churches, restaurants, and other sites unconnected to the Olympics”.
The advisory also warns on a possible attack by the Al Qaida.
“ Al-Qaida’s demonstrated capability to carry out sophisticated attacks against sizable structures–such as ships, large office buildings, embassies, and hotels–makes it potentially one of the greatest threats to the Olympics. Threats could also emanate from extremists who are not directly controlled by al-Qaida, as occurred in March 11, 2004 in the Madrid train bombings”.