ATHENS Ñ Greece has decided to allow some foreign countries
to send armed guards to protect their delegations to the Olympic Games.
Greek officials said the foreign security personnel would not merely
guard athletes at the August games. Rather, they said, the foreign security
personnel would focus on protecting national leaders who plan to attend
Greek officials said Athens has spent $1.2 billion on security for the
Olympics, which will comprise 16,000 athletes, Middle East Newsline reported. This was nearly four times
the amount spent for the Sydney 2000 Games.
"Leaders, presidents, kings, etc are one thing and athletes are
another," Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis said. "Greece is
exclusively responsible for the protection and guarding of the athletes."
Voulgarakis said foreign leaders to the games would be protected by
their own security personnel. He said the regulations for these visits would
be covered by international protocol.
"The leaders of countries have specific protocols that are separate and
unrelated to the Olympics," Voulgarakis said on Wednesday. "These are
bilateral agreements signed many years ago."
The Greek officials were clarifying an earlier report by the New York
Times that American, Israeli and possibly British security officers would be
allowed to carry weapons at the Olympics. The newspaper said Greece has
approved the deployment of 400 U.S. Special Forces troops as well as Israeli
and possibly British security officers for the games. The U.S. troops will
come under NATO sponsorship.
Britain, Israel and the United States have been the most active members
of a seven-nation Olympic security advisory team. Greece plans to deploy
between 50,000 and 70,000 soldiers, police officers and other personnel for
Officials said Greek authorities have determined that the most likely
threat was from anarchists. On Thursday, two firebombs were hurled at a
Culture Ministry building in Athens. Nobody was injured.
Publicly, Greece, citing a constitutional ban against foreigners
carrying weapons in the country, has insisted that its authorities would
solely protect national Olympic squads. But officials acknowledged heavy
U.S. pressure and said exceptions were being made for Israel and the United
States under the guise of protecting visiting dignitaries. The father of
President George Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1992, was
expected to attend the Olympics.
The officials cited the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 in which
14 countries provided their own security in wake of the Al Qaida suicide
strikes on New York and Washington. They also cited Israel, which has
protected its Olympic squad since the Fatah-sponsored Black September group
killed 11 Israelis at the Munich games in 1972. Israel was expected to
deploy at least 25 security guards for the August games.
"As far as the [Olympic] games are concerned it is clear that Greek
authorities have the exclusive responsibility, and they have done everything
humanly possible for the games to be held in a safe and peaceful
environment," Voulgarakis said.
The New York Times said the United States will send the Special Forces
and the FBI to the Olympics in Athens. About 100 U.S. agents from the State
Department's Diplomatic Security Service will serve as bodyguards for
American athletes and dignitaries. Greek officers would accompany the U.S.
The FBI also was allowed to send a hostage rescue team and analysts in
an effort to monitor any attack. The U.S. Navy plans to deploy divers to
search for mines in the port of Piraeus, where ships transporting foreign
dignitaries will dock.
"Greece has been working closely with NATO, and NATO has been, to the
extent it's able, responding to the government of Greece's requests and
thoughts and suggestions," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on
Wednesday. "And they've been in close cooperation for many, many, many
weeks, and one has to believe that they've taken the appropriate steps. My
understanding is that Greece has constitution and laws that affect various
aspects ... and that they have appropriately addressed it from a NATO
standpoint, which is permissible from a practical, legal and policy
standpoint in their country."
The New York Times said Greece and the United States were discussing
guidelines for the movement of U.S. security guards and troops. They
included areas of operation, type of weaponry and the use of firearms. A
meeting by the security advisory scheduled for this week was canceled.
Greek officials acknowledged most of the details of the New York Times
article. They said the government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanalis
quietly agreed to allow Israel and the United States to deploy armed guards
because of delays in the operation of security systems as well as concern
that they and other countries would boycott the event.
"In the end, this will come down to a massive ring around the Olympic
Village and a heavy security cordon inside the facility," a Greek official
said. "We admit there are holes in security and we will need other countries
to help us."