Newly Released Report Offers Data on Greece's Security for Olympics

Greek crime figures mixed, but safety impression was strong while Olympics were in town


ATHENS, Greece -- Athenians feel safe from terrorism eight months after massive security was organized for the Olympics, a poll found Tuesday, despite mixed crime statistics in 2004.

Athens spent an unprecedented euro1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) on security for the first Summer Games held since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with tens of thousands of police and soldiers deployed around the capital.

A survey by the Kapa Research Company of 609 Athenians on April 14 and 15 this year found 77.9 percent said Greece is a safe country, 40.9 percent that Greece is safer than other EU countries and 64.2 percent that the 2004 Olympics had helped increase Greece's security. It did not include a margin of error.

On Monday the public order ministry released figures showing theft and break-ins at homes and businesses reached a 15-year high in Greece in 2004 - rising to 2,339 from 2,083 in 2003. There were 111 murders in Greece and 171 bank robberies, both down slightly from 2003.

The terrorism survey's results were presented at a two-day conference on homeland and corporate security in Athens. "During the Olympic Games the citizens felt that the authorities could protect them. We have to work to keep this sense of security," said Petros Mandouvalos, a criminologist and MP for the ruling conservatives.

As part of the security budget for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics, Greece spent euro259 million (US$333 million) on an intelligence system gathering images and audio from an electronic web of 1,000 high-resolution and infrared cameras, and a sensor-laden blimp. Over 100,000 law enforcement personnel and troops were deployed at Olympic sites, transportation systems and borders, with NATO providing air, sea and ground assistance.

In October last year, authorities announced that law enforcement agencies had responded to over 700 security scares during the games, including a bomb hoax before the opening ceremony. The most serious threat involved neither terrorists nor bombs, but a propane leak at a luxury hotel hosting hundreds of representatives from major Olympic sponsors.

All the 82 bomb threats - aimed at venues such as the athletes' village and the public transportation network - turned out to be hoaxes, authorities said.

As well as the successful staging of the Olympics, two years ago authorities broke up Greece's once-elusive November 17 terrorist group, blamed for 23 murders and dozens of bomb attacks over 27 years.