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© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
07 December, 2005
George V. Voulgarakis
In truly unsuspecting times, Greece was granted the privilege to organize the games of the twenty-eighth Olympiad in summer 2004. The Greek nation was elated at the opportunity to host an event that originated on its soil and that signifies noble competition and peace among nations.
But in our fast-moving society, things change rather quickly, and the best intentions of government are not always enough. Soon after Greece assumed the responsibility to host an event that has been synonymous with peaceful competition, the ugly head of irrational violence made its appearance as we entered the twenty-first century. International society is now confronting intense insecurity as the world faces the specter of terrorism. Indeed, the tragic events of 9/11 have turned the page of a new chapter in the history of humanity, and Greece was among the first countries faced with the awesome task of staging the world's largest sporting event under the threat of potential violence. To fully understand the difficulty of this task, it is worth noting that even a few months before the opening ceremony, there were many voices that expressed "fear" about the security of the Olympic Games.
Major world news organizations hosted "expert opinions" declaring the venue of the twenty-eighth Olympiad, Athens, unsafe, and some even went as far as to recommend the transfer of the games to a safer place, even though my country had spent an inordinate amount of resources preparing for this event. To put things in perspective, let me state that the twenty-eighth Olympiad hosted the largest number of nations and athletes and the largest number of women competitors in the history of the games and almost twice the number of volunteers (as compared to the previous games), who came from all over the world to contribute their time and linguistic skills and thus ensure a memorable experience for all. Despite the adverse climate created by the voices of fear about security, the Olympic games were conducted flawlessly and without a hitch.
At the end, Greece received the thanks of all participating nations for a job well done (and the apologies of doubters) for the effective yet unobtrusive security we provided. Indeed, we believe that the model of security developed by our security forces in the post-9/11 environment, within the framework of international cooperation, stands out as an example with broad applications for the security of similar mass events elsewhere.
In this essay I offer an anatomy of a well-conceived and -executed plan that 1 believe could well serve other countries securing mass athletic, cultural, or political gatherings.
No doubt, terrorist threats create possibilities of conflicting environments between different civilizations. But apart from terrorism there are also other social phenomena like illegal migration, human trafficking, drug dealing, and smuggling of weapons of mass destruction that constitute new types of danger, not only for the welfare of countries like the United States and Greece, but for the well-being of humanity as a whole. Under these circumstances, the establishment of a stable security environment emerges as the principal duty for slates and as the essential precondition for social harmony and economic growth.
The central lesson we learned from, the 9/11 events, as well as from subsequent terrorist attacks in Madrid, Riyadh, Bali, Moscow, and Turkey, is that terrorists move around the globe a lot; they train in some countries, plan in others, use infrastructure of still others, and finally, carry out their plans somewhere else. As the history of terrorism shows, its modus operandi makes international cooperation necessary and, in fact, the only way to deal with a phenomenon that defies civic order and the rule of law.
This is an approach that we Greeks and I, personally, as the responsible minister for the secure organization of the Olympic Games, appreciated better than anyone else in the months preceding the games. I also believe that our experience in staging such mass events without affecting the spirit of athleticism or the festiveness of the overall atmosphere will be useful in the future.
In an international environment of uncertainty we were called upon to organize safe and secure Olympic Games, the first after the 9/11 tragic events, without negating the purpose and spirit of the games while ensuring total security for an event of immense proportions. It was indeed a great challenge for Greece. It should be noted that no other-country at that time had faced a similar challenge, and no integrated plan in the field of security had been tested that would be applicable specifically for the organization of -an event of such a scale. We were indeed cast in the role of pioneers for an athletic undertaking that turned out to be the largest in history, hosted by a country the size of metropolitan New York and in an environment of global tensions. Innovation, development, testing, retesting, cooperation, and application were the operative concepts,
Our first step in providing security without giving the appearance of a garrison stale was to create interlinked operational centers at the strategic and tactical levels, in which all involved bodies participated under the command and coordination of the Hellenic Police. This model was tested through a series of exercises, each of which required the participation of all relevant security agencies at every level. A total of 211 possible scenarios, addressing all likely contingencies, were drafted and applied. Included among them were plans for
1. counterterrorist response,
2. chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat response,
3. protection of critical infrastructure and venues,
4. protection of dignitaries, athletes, spectators, and visitors,
5. security of airport and port facilities and
6. a meticulous yet unobtrusive accreditation system.
In order to support our comprehensive planning, we bought the appropriate modern equipment and thoroughly trained our personnel in its effective use. For this specific purpose, 1 billion euros were spent exclusively from national resources for the Olympic Games security. It is the largest amount of money ever spent in the history of the Olympic Games regarding security, and it is three times more than the money spent for the security of the Sydney Olympic Games. All systems were tested under the toughest conditions through a series of exercises with the participation of all law enforcement agencies. Thus, all constituencies involved (operational and political) were fully prepared so as to have thorough and quick information and lake the right decisions under crisis conditions through the integrated command-and-control model.
At the international level, the main axis of our planning evolved on the principle that crossnational terrorism can be faced effectively only through international cooperation. In this framework the Olympic Advisory Group (OSO) was created.
The United Slates, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, and Spain, countries with important experience in organizing large-scale events were invited to participate. The OSO offered counseling and support in matters of planning, training, testing of scenarios, and sharing of pertinent intelligence. We cooperated with the best around the globe in terms of security matters and made the best use of their expertise without ever evading our national responsibility or affecting our sovereignty.
In addition to the multilateral approach, we also developed bilateral cooperation. Thirty-two special agreements were signed with different countries with emphasis placed on the cooperation with neighboring stales in the Balkans, southeastern Europe, and the Mediterranean, in this framework, I, as the responsible minister, also had the opportunity to make a series of visits that allowed me to strengthen personal relations with my counterparts, especially with my colleagues in the Balkans. Our close relationship was extended beyond the preparations for the Olympic Games, and as a result, a solid base for future cooperation has been created in the region.
At this point, 1 must offer a special comment on our cooperation with the United Slates, not only at the general bilateral level, but specifically about our cooperation in the OSO. 1 visited the United Stales in May 2004, during a critical stage for the preparation of the Olympic Games, and I had the opportunity to meet with high-ranking officials.
The US support was unwavering and particularly important. It focused on intelligence exchange, personnel training (twenty-five hundred police officers were trained in the United States), readiness exercises and know-how, provision of equipment, contingency plans for the prevention of and deterrence" against terrorist attacks, as well as intelligence .exchange. Additionally, there was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's contribution, which included a naval presence and patrolling of the eastern Mediterranean, information exchange and
management, and provision of equipment to deal with the chemical, biological, radiological, and 'nuclear threats.
Furthermore, we simultaneously created a security umbrella covering not only the five Olympic cities where sporting, invents took place but places throughout the country, on the high seas, and in international airspace. An essential parameter of the Olympic security planning was to avoid disturbing the joyful atmosphere of the games. We did not want security measures to constrain personal rights and citizens' liberties, nor cause Athens or any other city to look like a military camp.
Yet no exceptions were made in terms of security. Today I can state with a degree of personal satisfaction that we did a successful job. The Olympic security planning was complete, essential, and effective. As a result, we can now proudly say that after the Olympic Games, Greece can offer a new security model for mass events that includes a complete and tested plan of homeland security, advanced technology and know-how, experienced and specialized personnel, communication management, modern structures, and institutions and procedures that can serve as the basis for educating others and, more significantly, for enhancing the security environment in a critical region.
In the Ministry of Public Order, we are in the process of establishing the Center for Security Studies, in order to benefit from the Olympic legacy in this field. It is a think tank that is going to work on analysis of security issues, crisis management, and counterterrorism action. A new division, the Crisis Management Division, will also be established at the headquarters of the Hellenic Police, with highly trained and experienced personnel that participated actively in the security of the Olympic Games.
Today, Greece is in its best period of its modern, history. We have a strong democracy, a high level of economic growth, and social cohesion. Our country is a member of the European Union, NATO, and all other important international organizations.
For this reason, I believe Greece can play a crucial role in the Balkans, southeastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. This is a region where instability and uncertainty reign and where all of us must contribute to the creation of a secure environment where democracy can flourish. We need to work together and vigorously pursue international cooperation and initiatives that give hope to all and put an end to despair and fear. We in Greece are ready to undertake common initiatives together with the United States, with European countries, and with our other neighboring countries in order to face the problems of terrorism, organized crime, illegal migration, human trafficking, drug dealing, and so on, all of which are inimical to democracy and stability. Toward this end Greece offered to host the headquarters of a Balkan and Mediterranean center for security research and training. In this center, personnel from the different security services of the countries in the region could be trained to specialize in-critical areas, hopefully with the participation and support of the United States and European countries.
Transnational strategic and tactical exercises would be part of the center's mission.
I believe that we can all benefit from the experience we gained from the Olympic Games and the procedures we have been through in order to create the hospitable environment that was needed to secure the success of this mass event. Moreover, the model we developed in terms of US-Greek bilateral cooperation is a legacy for us all. We are looking forward to strengthening this cooperation because the fight against terrorism and the strengthening of the rule of law demand coordinated effort in order to ensure successful outcomes. Goals as well as strategies that are chosen in the future must be clearly defined, and our responses must be proportionate to the nature and scope of threats.
It is a common and indisputable belief in the era of globalization that the supporters of democracy and international cooperation are going to gain strength. It is also clear that the reaction by ail those who see globalization as a threat to their way of life could be even greater. In this context, I do worry that unless we develop policies and mechanisms that will respond to problems regarding minority rights, intercultural and interreligious relations, economic underdevelopment, poverty, health, and human rights, we could witness unprecedented security problems. These problems must be addressed in a sensible way, with vision and effectiveness. But a precondition to success is that we all cooperate and adopt a security diplomacy that effectively addresses the modern threats of terrorist networks and fundamentalist intolerance. In this respect we can hardly afford to waver: democracy must win, and when it does, terrorism will be defeated.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece