[ISN] Olympic security fiasco revealed by stolen passes
isn at c4i.org
Thu Aug 5 06:10:12 EDT 2004
By Harry de Quetteville in Athens
Ten days before the Olympic Games start in Athens, passes allowing
vehicles into several venues, including the Olympic village, have been
A security source told the Telegraph that the passes were taken from
the windscreens of unattended official vehicles.
"Some people left the doors of their cars unlocked and the thieves
just came in and took the accreditations," he said.
It is not clear whether the thefts were opportunistic or part of a
plot to breach the £700 million security operation for the games,
which begin on August 13.
The security arrangements, described this week by Gianna
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens Organising Committee,
or Athoc, as "the biggest contribution ever made by the armed forces
at a time of peace in Greece" has mobilised some 70,000 soldiers and
But the theft of the passes raises fears that terrorists driving car
or lorry bombs could still get through.
According to sources in Athoc, the games have been hit by another
security failure, after plans to check the backgrounds of staff,
contractors and volunteers were dropped as organisers ran out of time.
The problems began in mid-May, when organisers began recruiting 7,000
workers to undertake jobs from general receptionists to housekeepers
at the Olympic village.
But with so many people to process in only three months, the planned
background checks were scrapped.
"Background checks require 20 days for each employee," a source said.
"But Athoc was trying to hire so many people that the checks have not
"In many cases the pressure to recruit staff meant that extremely
poorly qualified people were hired, but we don't know the backgrounds
of many others."
Now thousands of staff and contractors with unverified histories are
moving freely around supposedly secure venues because formal
accreditation passes, bearing photos of the holder, have still not
Instead, Athoc is relying on so-called "bump-in" passes, which are
handwritten and issued without photographs or background checks.
"What worries me is the accreditation," said an Olympic insider, who
spoke to the Telegraph on condition of anonymity.
"Athoc has really screwed up the accreditations for staff, volunteers
and contractors. Because they need people so badly they are letting
them in with bump-in passes. Anyone can come into any venue, including
the Olympic village. It's really bad news."
The accreditation problem is so worrying that police and soldiers
guarding some venues are now asking workers for a passport or other
documents to supplement the inadequate passes.
Meanwhile, ferry traffic at the port of Piraeus was interrupted
yesterday while Greek minesweepers checked the harbour for explosive
devices. The port, just southwest of Athens, is extremely busy
ferrying tourists to the Greek islands.
Once the games begin, liners will be moored in the harbour for use as
floating hotels by VIPs including the former US president George Bush
Snr, who is leading the US delegation to Athens.
Protecting Piraeus against a suicide boat bombing, such as that which
killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, is a
priority for the navy and coastguard.
More information about the ISN