British Journalist Alleges Security Flaws | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 02.09.2004
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British Journalist Alleges Security Flaws

Greece is spending an unprecedented €1.2 billion on security for the Olympics, but so far, the only threat has come from a British tabloid journalist on a mission to discover flaws in the system.


News reports says Athens isn't being protected well enough

Reporter Bob Graham of London's Sunday Mirror tabloid described the Olympics as a "terrorist's dream." On a mission to test the Games' billion-euro security apparatus, Graham reported that he was able to plant three packages containing cables, batteries and wire around the Olympic stadium without them being detected.

And that's not all. Graham also reported that he got into Friday's opening ceremonies waving passes that had been issued with the names "Michael Mouse" and "Robert Bin Laden." He came within 20 meters of the VIP area, he said -- close to world leaders including British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Sicherheit in Athen

Is he doing enough to protect the games?

The reporter said he got a job as a driver for a Games contractor without undergoing much in the way of checks. There was no official job interview, and he wasn't asked to provide references.

Organizers: Venues are safe

Athens organizers responded angrily, saying Graham's story was inaccurate on several points, and calling his entire investigation into question. Games spokesman Michael Zaharatos said a background check had been carried out on the reporter before he got the job, contrary to Graham's claims.

As for the packages, they were never detected because they were harmless. Sniffer dogs are being used to make sure that no bombs can be hidden in the Olympic stadium -- and not sandwich bags filled with electrical tape or other materials that can be found on any construction site, the spokesman said.

"Bags and boxes obviously routinely appear on such sites but unless they actually contain a hazard, they do not alarm the dogs or any of the equipment used," Zaharatos said. "The story was crank or prank journalism and not indicative of an actual security problem at the Athens Olympics."


Sicherheit für die Spiele

A camera-outfitted airship will help watch over the Olympics

The Greek government was also swift to condemn Graham's actions. The minister in charge of security, Georgios Voulgarakis, called the Sunday Mirror article an "insult to journalism and the principles of objective, responsible reporting." He advised Graham to read fewer detective novels in future.

Athens organizers are highly sensitive about their expensive security measures for the Olympics -- the first summer Games to be staged since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The €1.2 billion euro price tag equals about 20 percent of Greece's 2003 defense budget.

Greek officials are under immense pressure to ensure that nothing goes wrong at the Games. And yet, already, experts are saying that, should no attack occur, Greece can expect to be at the center of an international debate over the high cost of security.