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Global Sporting News — In the Age of Terrorism

How do Greek organizers plan for possible terrorist attacks on the 2004 Athens Olympics?

October 25, 2003

How do Greek organizers plan for possible terrorist attacks on the 2004 Athens Olympics?

A two-day security exercise held in Athens at the end of September dealt with potential threats against the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. This Globalist Document shows what it means to host a global sporting event in the age of terrorism.

The exercise, the fifth in a series held in the framework of preparations for the Athens Olympics in August 2004, involved foreign and Greek experts who assessed the efficiency of coordination between the various law enforcement and security agencies.

From the time that Athens was awarded the honor of hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the organizers, together with the Greek government, have given top priority to making them safe for athletes and spectators.

In the post 9/11 international environment, Greece will commit security personnel and resources on a scale never before employed, using the most advanced available technology.

This will involve 67 different systems, including command centers, secure digital trunk radio network, closed circuit TV, automatic vehicle location, geographic information systems, and a sophisticated network linking all the security agencies and locations.

These systems will be provided by a group of companies under the direction of the U.S.-based Science Applications International Corporation, which was awarded a $280 million contract by the Greek government last March.

The budget for security is expected to near $1 billion, three times the amount spent on any previous Olympics. This figure includes infrastructure, equipment, and the cost of staffing, training and other security needs.

Some 58,000 security personnel will be involved in ensuring the safety of the Athens Games. They include 45,000 police officers, 7,000 military personnel, 4,000 coast guards — and 2,000 firefighters.

The whole security staff is taking part in a basic training program, which began in February, 2003. This is in addition to the training of some 1,700 people, in Greece and abroad, in 26 specialized areas — such as VIP protection, fast driving and hostage rescue.

The security arrangements as a whole have been planned in an unprecedented cooperation with worldwide experts joining in an Olympic Advisory Group, a seven-nation task force with special experience in the planning of previous Olympics.

The panel has members from Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Spain, the UK, and the United States. Greek experts were present at the Sydney and Salt Lake City Games to study their security measures.

A special police unit, the Olympic Games Security Division, has been established with staff from the police, coast guard, fire brigade and defense forces. It reports directly to the Chief of the Hellenic Police and is the overall authority for all the security and public order measures, and the coordination of all the security agencies involved.

This organization, the OGSD, in close cooperation with experts from the British Home Office, was in charge of the "Rainbow 2002" security exercise. In November 2002, it used 1,800 personnel in a number of security scenarios, including a mock plane hijacking and bomb threats against a cruise ship.

Security commanders are in charge of individual plans for each of some 60 different Olympic sites. They examine all the architectural plans and drawings to familiarize themselves with the special security needs of each venue — each of which will be subjected to a "lockdown" before the Games begin.

All the areas will be secured and emptied of people while security personnel conduct a thorough sweep, after which access will be limited to accredited staff only.

Editor’s note: This essay is adapted from "Olympic Security: A Top Priority,” an article by the Press and Information Office of the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., published October 3, 2003.