Australia orders security review

SYDNEY: Australia's main spy agency was ordered to review its threat assessment for the Athens Olympics yesterday following a bomb attack on a police station in the Greek capital just 100 days before the Games commence. 

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer played down the predawn bombing which left no casualties as not “too serious” and the head of Australia's Olympic Committee reaffirmed his confidence in security preparations for the Games. 

Downer said the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) would review the threat level in Athens following the bombing. 

“On the face of it, it doesn't look as though these incidents are too serious, but with the Olympic Games coming up we want to be absolutely sure,” he said. 

“It is a reminder that the Olympic Games are not far away,” he added. 

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) secretary-general Bob Elphinston said Australia would send a team to Athens but noted it was possible some individual athletes might pull out. 

"We would never stand in the way of any athlete making a personal choice in that regard," he said. 

The head of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), John Coates, said the bombings were “of great concern” coming so close to the August 13 kickoff for the Games. 

“The protection of our team in Athens is vital and security of the athletes is paramount in all our preparation and planning,” he said. 

Coates said early indications indicated the attack was the work of “local anarchists who are opposed to authorities such as the police, foreign embassies and large multinational corporations”. 

“The AOC remains confident in the security measures in place for the August Olympics,” he said. 

The bombings came just hours after Australian and Greek authorities resolved a security dispute that officials here said could have derailed the first stage outside Greece of the Olympic torch relay in Sydney and Melbourne next month. 

Australian Olympic officials and the government of New South Wales state claimed that Greece was insisting it control security surrounding the Olympic flame when it begins its overseas legs in Sydney on June 4. 

Officials here said only Australian security forces would protect the torch. 

The issue was resolved late on Tuesday with a compromise that puts Australians in charge of security and gives Greek officials responsibility for logistics during the relay, Australian officials said.  

Meanwhile, Olympic greats Dawn Fraser and Cathy Freeman and cricketer Steve Waugh are among Australian sports greats to carry the Athens Olympic torch here next month, officials said yesterday. 

They will be joined by other leading Australian sports figures, including John Konrads, Michael Wendon, Kieren Perkins, Susie O'Neill, Betty Cuthbert, Herb Elliott, John Landy and Ron Clarke. 

Australian Olympic officials and the state governments hope the relay will rekindle excitement over the Olympic movement. 

"For all of us, memories are going to come flooding back of what it was like in this city when we hosted the games four years ago, and it will project us once again to the world," NSW Premier Bob Carr said yesterday. 

Sydney will be the first city to host the flame on its global tour through 34 cities in 26 countries. 

The torch arrives in Sydney on June 4 and spends the next day in Melbourne before going on to Tokyo. 

Olympic 400m champion Freeman will run the first leg from the Sydney Opera House. – AFP 

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