|A Greek Air Force officer checks
a Patriot air defense missile launcher at Tatoi military
air base, north of Athens July 27, 2004. Dozens of
new Pac 3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) missiles were
armed and in position, providing an air defense umbrella
over the Greek capital as part of a massive security
plan to safeguard the upcoming Olympic Games.
ATHENS (Reuters) - Athens' Olympic security
umbrella, including dozens of armed Patriot defense missiles
and hundreds of surveillance cameras, started operating
Tuesday, as organizers prepare to safeguard next month's
Almost 300 closed-circuit cameras were
sweeping main avenues and squares while three police helicopters
and a Zeppelin airship, equipped with more surveillance
cameras, hovered above the capital.
Dozens of new Pac 3 (Patriot Advanced
Capability) missiles were armed and in position at three
locations around the capital, including the Tatoi military
base near the athletes' Olympic Village, to provide a
defense umbrella over Athens during the Games.
"This is the start of the operations.
The system will gradually be operated in full," a
police source told Reuters. "The helicopters and
the Zeppelin will be flying almost around the clock from
now until the end of the Games."
Army officials at the base said the Patriot
defense missiles were locked into their launchers and
ready to use against a potential threat from the air from
now until the end of the Games on August 29.
"This particular squadron, along
with other missile guided squadrons, is part of an anti-missile
umbrella formed in the Athens region for the protection
of the Olympic Games," squadron leader Lieutenant-Colonel
Agamemnon Koliakos told Reuters Television.
Security forces Tuesday also received
11 state-of-the-art surveillance vans, which will receive
and monitor images from around the city. The coast guard
will position six of them around the port of Piraeus,
where seven luxury cruise ships to be used as hotels will
berth during the Games.
Greece is putting in place the most expensive
Olympic security plan ever, worth more than 1 billion
euros ($1.22 billion).
By the August 13 opening ceremony, authorities
will be deploying more than 70,000 security staff as well
as thousands of cameras to secure the first summer Games
since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Greece has set up a seven-nation security
advisory group, including France, Germany, Israel, Spain,
the United States, Britain and Australia to provide intelligence
and training, and has called on NATO for air and sea patrols.
But the government has assured there was
no indication, or intelligence "chatter," of
a potential attack in Greece during the Games, a statement
backed by the international police organization Interpol.
"I am not aware of anything like
this," government spokesman Thodoris Rousopoulos
said after story in The New York Times suggested Greece
was concerned Muslim militants in the country could prepare
for a strike during the Games.