Greece snub Australia’s security plan

ATHENS: Athens organisers have bluntly turned down Australia’s plans to protect their athletes at next year’s Olympics with their own security force. 

In what could develop into a wider row involving other countries, an Athens 2004 Olympics spokesman said Greece could never allow another country to take over security on its soil. 

“Greece is a sovereign state and it will guarantee the safety of the Games,” said spokesman Serafim Kotrostos.  

Earlier yesterday, Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates said his team would use its own security force because of the “peculiar spread of venues in Athens” and might ban athletes from leaving the Olympic village. 

“The sorts of things which worry us are not the venues themselves, which is the responsibility of the organising committee, but what happens downtown,” Coates said. 

He said the decision was taken even before the Sept 11 attacks. Australian security guards were present to protect Australian athletes at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. 

Dismissing Coates’s comments, Kotrostos told reporters: “Only those who don’t know how Games are run can say things like that.”  

He said Athens’s US$600mil security plan, headed by 2000 Sydney Games security chief Peter Ryan, was so good it had convinced the US basketball team to stay in the athletes’ village for the first time since the Barcelona Games of 1992. 

“I would like to remind you of comments made by the NBA commissioner David Stern who said the US basketball team will for the first time since 1992 stay in the Olympic village and not separately in a guarded hotel,” Kotrsotos said.  

Aware of the huge security task they face in view of the spread of global terrorism since Sept 11, Athens organisers have formed an international committee to advise on security matters. 

The eight-nation committee is made up of Greece, Britain, the United States, Israel, Spain, France, Germany and Australia – all countries regarded as high profile targets. 

But the committee was only formed to exchange information and know-how ahead of the Olympics and does not have powers to station non-Greeks in security roles. 

Greece has insisted all along it will run security during the Games. 

“I am sure we can guarantee athletes’ safety. We will not accept that (countries bringing extra security). It is our responsibility,” former Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said recently. – Reuters 

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