Originally created 03/17/04

Chief Olympics organizer insists Athens will be safe



ATHENS, Greece -- The head of the Athens Organizing Committee insisted Tuesday that Greece was doing everything necessary to safeguard the Summer Olympics.

"The games will take place and whatever is needed for the games will be in place," Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said after meeting Premier Costas Caramanlis to review preparations in the wake of the deadly Madrid bombings.

"We are working very seriously for this ... Greece will give a unique answer to all those who dared to doubt her," she said.

Angelopoulos-Daskalaki later attended a meeting with police, security chiefs and ministers involved in Olympic planning to asses the results of a drill involving about 400 U.S. troops and 1,500 Greek personnel.

Code-named "Shield of Hercules 2004," the two-week exercise began March 10 and also involves experts from Britain, Germany, Israel and Canada. The drill is the main test of measures to protect the games from a host of possible threats, ranging from hijackings to a "dirty bomb" attack.

"We will have many such meetings in the future," Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said.

Olympic security is costing Athens a record $800 million for the Aug. 13-29 games. Greece last week also formally requested help from its NATO allies.

During the Olympics, more than 50,000 police and soldiers will be deployed, aided by about 1,400 security cameras. Helicopters, a blimp and NATO's AWACS radar planes will also provide support and surveillance. A no-fly zone will be imposed around Olympic venues and other sites.

Safety fears have been heightened by the Madrid train bombings last week, while police here are also rattled by arson attacks and small-scale bombings by anarchist gangs and far-left Greek groups.

On Monday, a group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Citibank branch at an Athens suburb. The crude device was destroyed by controlled explosion.

In a statement published by a newspaper Tuesday, the group cited NATO's involvement in Olympic security as one of the justifications for the attempted attack.