Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - The Greek government is considering deploying the military to deal with the threat of terrorism during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
The attacks on the U.S. have created a totally new security environment and raised the fear of terrorists using chemical and biological weapons, Greek officials said.
The Public Order Ministry has set up security committees including specialists from the armed forces, the National Intelligence Service, the police, coastguard and fire services.
"The sudden emergence of large-scale terrorism in the U.S.A. has unquestionably shaken Greece and the rest of the world," Public Order Minister Mikhail Khrisokhoidhis said in a statement to this correspondent.
"The attacks underscore the pivotal importance of safety measures for the 2004 Olympic Games," he said. "So, Greece will spend about $650 million on security measures and will deploy some 50,000 police and military during the Games. The soldiers will be trained to operate as police officers."
Other government sources say that the army commando units will have an enhanced role during the Olympics.
They will be trained according to the standard of the American, British and Israeli security forces, sources said. The troops will provide both underwater and helicopter-borne air cover to Olympic events and likely targets.
"We need a modern, unified security and defense policy to deal with asymmetric threats," Defense Minister Yiannos Papandoniou said.
"The use of the military in a civilian role, however, is likely to be a sensitive one in a country which suffered a military dictatorship between 1967 and 1974," he conceded.
During a two-day visit to the Greek capital last week, International Olympic Committee officials noted considerable progress in the preparations after a slow start.
"We were very positively surprised compared with our September visit ... contracts have been signed and work [on Olympic venues] has started," the IOC's Denis Oswald told reporters.
"But there is still a lot to do," he cautioned. "It will be a race against the clock until the end."
IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement from Lausanne Tuesday that he had "absolute confidence" in Athens' successful organization of the event.
"We will have good games in Athens, there is no doubt about that. I received the report of [Oswald] ... regarding the great progress which left him satisfied," Rogge said.
"However, he repeated his advice and appeal for the efforts to continue at the same pace, so that there will be an excellent result."
US Helping Greece Make Security Preparations for Olympics (July 27, 2001)