U.S. steps up security assistance to Greece before Olympics

Thursday, May 13, 2004

ATHENS Greece has launched another major exercise to ensure security at the Olympic Games.

The exercise, termed "Olympic Guardian-2," takes place on Thursday. The four-day exercise marks the eighth time that Greece's military and security forces will train and engage in drills in an effort to protect the Olympic Games, scheduled in August.

Officials said Olympic Guardian-2 was organized by the Olympic Games Security Division, which comprises a seven-national panel that includes Britain, France, Israel and the United States. The exercise will operate under a range of scenarios that will test the capabilities and response of Greece's military and security forces.

[On Thursday, a bomb exploded in front of a bank in Athens. The blast caused minor damage and no casualties, Middle East Newsline reported.]

The scenario calls for a terrorist attack on the Olympic village or a nearby area. Greek authorities, with the help of its allies, will then be required to manage the crisis in a simulated Olympic Games environment.

Officials said the exercise will be conducted in cooperation with the United States, which has provided hundreds of security officers to help secure the Olympic Games. The United States has also provided technology and training for the security effort. The other members of the Olympic Games Security Advisory Group would serve as observers.

Last week, Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis held talks with senior U.S. officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Voulgarakis said Olympic Games security was a major subject on the agenda.

"We discussed the major issue of Olympic Games security, which is of great importance to us as a country," Voulgarakis said. "And I am in the pleasant position of saying that Mr. Ridge agrees that very significant steps have been made and that Greece can indeed host secure Olympic Games."

Olympic Guardian-2 marks the first time that members of the advisory group's Coordinating Council will participate in an Olympics security exercise, officials said. They said Olympic Guardian I was held in November 2003 in Stuttgart, Germany and deemed a success.

Greece has urged NATO and European Union allies to help in the effort to secure the Olympic Games. Greek Deputy Public Order Minister Christos Markoyiannakis said the Olympic Games should bolster security cooperation within Europe. He said Greece will provide additional details on the security measures for the Olympic Games at the NATO summit in June. Greece has reported spending $1.2 billion to secure the Olympic Games.

"Solidarity among all the EU member-states, of which we speak today, must be proven during the Athens Olympic Games, in order to convey the message of European civilization's timeless values to the rest of the world," Markoyiannakis said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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