By Miron Varouhakis, The Associated Press
ATHENS — Greek authorities dealt with more than 700 security scares during the Athens Games, including a bomb hoax before the opening ceremony and a propane leak at a luxury hotel that was hosting hundreds of representatives from major Olympic sponsors.
The Aug. 13-29 Olympics went off without any major security problems. Greece spent more than $1.5 billion on security for the games.
Police said Thursday that the most serious threat involved neither terrorists nor bombs — on Aug. 19, a propane leak caused the evacuation of a seaside hotel for several hours while firefighters emptied a tank containing the gas. Police said many of those staying at the hotel were Americans.
Police said they chose not to evacuate the Olympic stadium, which was packed to capacity with more than 70,000 spectators, when they received a bomb threat before the opening ceremony. It was one of dozens of bomb threats during the games that turned out to be hoaxes.
“We had 738 incidents, of which 82 cases — or 11% — involved bomb threats,” police spokesman Col. Lefteris Ikonomou said.
One problem involved two Russians who tried to use doctored accreditations to enter the Olympic athletes’ village. Ikonomou said authorities at first feared the two men were Chechen rebels until “it turned out that they were … relatives of members of the Russian team” simply seeking free room and board.
More than 70,000 police, soldiers and other members of the Greek armed forces provided security at Olympic sites. Another 35,000 troops guarded railways and borders, while Greece’s armed forces were placed on alert during the Olympics.
Ikonomou said most of the bomb threats were aimed at venues such as the athletes’ village and the public transportation network. One included a threat to use ships to blow up a suspension bridge linking southern and central Greece.
Security personnel also responded to 219 threats involving large gatherings of foreign officials and 134 security checks of suspicious individuals and packages.