ATHENS.- A group of 70 U.S. congressmen, in a letter to Premier Costas Simitis, praised security plans for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics, and said the Athens Games “will be one of the greatest.”
“We thank you for the extraordinary measures you are taking,” the congressmen said in the letter, a copy of which was faxed to The Associated Press.
Dated Friday, the letter follows last month’s terror attacks in Istanbul which killed dozens of people and brought suspected al-Qaida operations to Greece’s doorstep.
“We all appreciate the fact that Greece’s $750 million security budget is the largest in Olympic history — over 3.5 times of that of the last summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000,” which was $200 million.
Authorities plan to deploy more than 40,000 personnel _ including 16,000 soldiers — during the games at Olympic venues and related facilities, including airports, ports and hotels. Run by 11 special command centers, security forces will be backed up by more than 1,000 surveillance cameras around Athens, and a fortresslike wall around the Olympic Village.
The congressmen also praised Greece’s cooperation with the seven-nation Olympic security advisory team that includes the United States, Israel and Britain.
“As part of this effort on Nov. 4 and 5 the U.S. military led a training exercise for 100 Greek security personnel, including Greece’s top security officials, at the U.S. military headquarters in Europe,” the letter said.
“We look forward to the 2004 Olympic Games which we are confident will be one of the greatest in the proud history of the Olympic Games.”