ATHENS Ñ Greece has launched a manned air ship for surveillance over
the Olympic Games.
Greek authorities said the first flight of the Phoebus blimp on July
23 over Athens was a test of the platform's surveillance and communications
| A police officer stands in front of an airship at an old airfield in Athens on July 22. The airship, fitted with cameras and sensors, will help provide security at the Athens Olympics. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
The blimp, which contains dome-shaped sensors, and equipment to detect
chemical weapons, was meant to relay video images to the Olympic Security
Operations Center, officials said.
The command and control center, valued at
$312 million and supplied by a consortium led by the U.S. firm Science
Applications International Corp., would also be fed information from more
than 1,000 cameras and sensors in the Olympic Village and around the Greek
SAIC leads a consortium that includes Germany's Siemens, the U.S.
firms General Dynamics and Honeywell International and Israel's Elbit
After a four-day delay because of high winds, the 61-meter
long platform spent three hours aloft in what officials termed a
Officials said the blimp has been equipped with advanced observation and
data link technology meant to monitor the Olympic Village and the rest of Athens. The blimp was manned by five police
officers trained in operating the platform.
On July 25, Greece tested the C2 center in an exercise termed "Olympic
Hermes." The exercise sought to test the monitoring of Athens by air and
The zeppelin will also be linked to security forces deployed around
Olympic facilities as well as security vehicles. The vehicles would include
transporting foreign dignitaries who would be alerted immediately to any
Officials said the blimp, manufactured by a Swiss firm, would begin
regular flights in August. The games have been scheduled for Aug. 13.
Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis expressed satisfaction
over the operation of the air ship. He said the platform would faciliate the
maximum level of communications between the operators and the C2 center.
"I can say that we are ready," Voulgarakis said.