Aussies Under Guard

SYDNEY, May 10 (AFP) - Athens security officials will provide Australian athletes with 24-hour armed protection at this year’s Olympic Games, newspapers reported here Monday.
The reports said Greek police would provide armed escorts to shadow athletes when they leave the fortified Olympic village to go shopping, sightseeing or visiting local cafes.
British and American athletes will also receive 24-hour, off-site protection from Greece, the reports said.
Teams from members of the Iraq coalition and from countries named in Al-Qaeda threats are regarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as potential terrorist targets.
More than 50,000 members of the Greek security forces and emergency services will be directly involved in protecting the athletes, officials and visitors during the August 13-29 Olympics, organisers have said.
And Greece has officially asked for NATO help to boost security for the Games in the wake of the Madrid trainbombings that killed 191 and injured 1,500 in March.
A senior IOC security source quoted in the MelbourneHerald-Sun newspaper said: Teams which are morevulnerable -- ones from the coalition alliance and whichhave been named as being under threat from people likeAl-Qaeda -- will get additional security. They will get security, not just backwards andforwards from training venues, or to and from Olympiccompetitions, but when they’re off duty and justvisiting the city, on sightseeing tours, and going torestaurants and clubs.’’
While the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) considerssending its own security personnel to Athens, Greekauthorities promised the extra security after making itclear Australian police would not be allowed to carryguns in Athens, the Herald-Sun reported.
AOC president John Coates said at the weekend thatAustralia would have a dedicated security officer forthe sailing, rowing and village areas.
Coates also said athletes could be sent home forsafety reasons immediately after they competing in theirevents. It would be the first time since the 1980 MoscowGames that happened.
David Flaskas, who manages several of Australia’sOlympic competitors, including world and Olympicchampion swimmer Ian Thorpe and world hurdles championJana Pittman, said off-site security would providewelcome reassurance for his athletes.
There is no doubt the (Olympic) village will be thesafest place on Earth for the two weeks but, obviously,there were concerns outside the village,'' Flaskas toldthe newspaper. It is a decision which has no doubt been based on arisk assessment, which has been carried out by Greekauthorities,’’ he said. ``On that basis, they’ve made anassessment and we welcome their action.’’
Fresh concerns over Olympic security were raised lastweek following three bomb blasts outside an Athenspolice station.