Magazine article Newsweek

Security: 'Anything Is a Target'; Planners Are Spending Almost a Billion Dollars to Keep the Athletes-And All of Athens-Safe during the Games

Magazine article Newsweek

Security: 'Anything Is a Target'; Planners Are Spending Almost a Billion Dollars to Keep the Athletes-And All of Athens-Safe during the Games

Article excerpt

Byline: T. Trent Gegax, With Toula Vlahou in Athens

Until last week's Madrid bombings, Greece was a country where cell phones and large umbrellas were casually passed around metal detectors at high government offices. Athenians, confident they weren't terror targets, cried "Big Brother" at every turn of the Olympic security screw. Now, even they fear that Madrid just might be spring training for terrorists intent on hitting the Games in August. "Unfortunately, we live in a radically different reality from the one we used to know," read an editorial in the daily To Vima last week. Planners piling $850 million and 100,000 forces into a high-tech protection plan weren't surprised that terrorists targeted trains in Madrid. They've long believed that Athens' subway and light-rail system was their own Achilles' heel. They're working to protect it: uniformed and plainclothes guards will roam the trains, and officials are pondering whether to store gas masks in subway stations. Reacting to Madrid, they ordered explosive-detection devices to install under subway cars.

It's hard to overstate the reach of Greece's security state. Friday, the country took the unprecedented step of asking NATO for assistance. A blimp, helicopters and AWACS radar planes will patrol the skies. Seven countries, including the United States, are advising. The security bill buys a cop every 10 meters in the center of Athens, magnetometers cranked up to detect a penknife and packs of bomb-sniffing dogs. It also buys a $350 million state-of-the-art nerve center linking 105 subcommand stations that will use sonar devices, motion-sensitive fences and some 1,400 cameras to analyze everything from traffic flow to air currents. "Echo-location" devices will scan for suicide swimmers in the port, and the U.S. Department of Energy has given the Greeks $18 million worth of mechanical sniffers for nuclear, biological and chemical bombs. …

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