Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Athens security goes into high gear for the Olympics


Security teams began a full-scale tightening of surveillance and patrols yesterday in preparation for next month's Olympics, but work delays will block the "lock-down" of the main stadium complex until just days before the Games, Greece's top law enforcement official said.

"For us, the Olympic Games start today," said Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. "They start today for the Greek police, the armed forces and the coast guard."

But the inability to seal off the stadium grounds could raise concerns from some nations that the round-the-clock construction may compromise the most elaborate and costly security network in Olympic history.

Voulgarakis said the stadium complex will likely miss the July 31 target date to have all venues and Olympic facilities under full police control. Some Greek officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the stadium work may not finish until Aug. 10 -- just three days before the opening ceremony.

About 11,000 police officers and others began moving into Olympic venues and facilities in the first stage of the "lock-down" process, which includes security sweeps and tests of all surveillance operations. Street patrols will also increase over the coming weeks, Voulgarakis said.

A total of 70,000 police, soldiers and other forces have been assigned to protect the Aug. 13-29 Games, which carries a record security budget of at least US$1.2 billion.

A seven-nation task force, including the US and UK, is assisting with the security blueprint.

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