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Athens Mayor Promotes Olympics, Attempts to Allay Security Concerns
Sabina Castelfranco
VOA, Rome
14 May 2004, 16:53 UTC

Athens mayor Dora Bakoyianni says security for the Olympics will cost over $1 billion. The mayor, who is on a tour of European and U.S. cities to promote Athens ahead of this summer's games says extra measures have been taken for the first Olympics since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

When the Olympic Games were last held in Rome in 1960, security was not a concern as it is today. This summer's games are taking place in a different world, and there are fears terrorists could target the event, but Dora Bakoyianni said that Athens authorities are taking no chances.

"Whatever is humanly and technically possible to do to secure the games is done," she said. "I believe that during the games Athens will be the most secure city to be in for the very simple reason that terrorists have preference in attacking when things calm down."

The mayor added that the security operation for Athens is 3.5 times bigger than it was for the games in Sydney. Tens of thousands of security officers will be deployed during the games in August. She says they have been specially trained for all eventualities, including biochemical and radioactive attacks. Undersea protection and NATO air coverage are also planned.

For Athens, Ms. Bakoyianni said, the challenge of hosting the games is enormous. Greece is the smallest country ever to stage the largest ever Olympic Games. The problem of security was one more major issue to deal with.

A Greek radical group, the Revolutionary Struggle, on Thursday claimed responsibility for placing three small bombs at a police station earlier this month, which exploded without injuring anyone.

Ms. Bakoyianni, whose first husband was killed by Greek terrorists, said the incident was minor and dismissed the group as not a serious terrorist threat. The mayor also said that the stringent security measures Athens is taking are not going to take the fun out of the Olympics.

"We want to make the people feel the festivities and we want them to take part in these festivities," she said. "We'll have, of course, to keep the balance between the security measures and the festive and the joyful atmosphere. I hope we will succeed. It will be important for the world for us to succeed."

The Athens mayor said the Olympics are the world's biggest peaceful event and their success is essential, especially at this time.