(4 of 5)
All officials can do now is try to minimize the damage. There's no time to put a roof on the pool or relocate the rowing venue that sits on waters so buffeted by gusts that the area is studded by windmills, but cleanup crews are removing litter from public squares, the city's thriving population of stray dogs is being tagged, and traffic restrictions have been enacted to ensure that at least the competitors will be able to get to the events. If it's any comfort, the ancient Games weren't a picnic for spectators either. Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics, describes the facilities in Olympia as "reminiscent of a badly planned rock concert" and the city as dirty, impossible to navigate and disease ridden. Those who hiked the 210 miles from Athens had nowhere to sleep; the one hotel was cordoned off for VIPs.
Any temptation to reduce the deficiencies of Athens 2004 to charming historical echo stops cold when it comes to security. Even before Sept. 11, foreign governments were worried about Greece's lingering problems with domestic terrorism, its vast, unsecurable coastline and its proximity to the terrorist hubs of the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. After Sept. 11, Greece openly asked for help with security and, in conjunction with its NATO partners, agreed on a cooperative strategy that is the obverse of the Powell doctrine. The plan, says a Western official, is to scare off terrorists with an overwhelming display of resources: "You want to put enough whistles and alarm bells on the house of the Olympics that if some [terrorist] looks at it, he's going to say it's too hard."
The deterrents in place are impressive. NATO will provide AWACS aircraft to monitor Greek airspace. The U.S. Sixth Fleet will patrol the Mediterranean while the Turkish and Italian navies cruise the Aegean and Ionian seas. A 70,000-strong force of Greek police and military--nearly twice the number of troops deployed in Kosovo in 1999--will patrol the country. Security personnel will outnumber athletes 7 to 1. Publicly, the international community has gone out of its way to praise the Greeks for their willingness to accept advice (from Israelis on suicide bombers, the Czechs on chemical weapons, the Russians on Chechen rebels) and for ponying up $1.5 billion--15 times as much as Atlanta--in security costs.
Privately, there have been some serious dustups. Most prominent was the battle over who would actually protect the athletes. The U.S. and Israel, among other nations, insisted that their security forces be armed; the Greeks were offended by the implication that they couldn't be trusted to look after visitors and cited the Greek constitution, which forbids foreign personnel to carry weapons, as the final word on the matter. After months of wrangling, numerous sources say the U.S. and Greece agreed last week that only the Greeks will bear arms. It is a mutually beneficial lie that burnishes Greek pride, but in fact armed U.S. special-forces soldiers and an FBI hostage-rescue team will be riding shotgun on the U.S. squad. Nevertheless, for the first time in Olympic history, the I.O.C. has taken out an insurance policy, valued at $170 million, should the Games at any point be canceled because of terrorism.