ATHENS - The guns are not pointing at visitors, they do not need to. The men
carrying them have visitors to the new Olympics stadium in their sight all the
The men are carefully positioned to see there is not a moment anyone could
be out of sight. A visitor begins to feel like a suspect until he can prove
himself innocent, by doing nothing.
Down by the side of the white beams holding the futuristic new stadium together
a group of workers, black or apparently of Mediterranean origin, were busy planting
shrubs to give the surroundings that landscaped look. A group of policemen placed
themselves across the road to watch every move they made.
The real alert has not even begun yet. And all this is in any case only the
more visible part of the security around the main stadium and all other venues.
Control rooms watch every inch of land around, every person on camera. The
police think nothing of driving down the wrong lane with security flights flashing
to confront anyone who could look a foreigner. After three bomb blasts outside
a police station in central Athens early in May, following the March 11 bombings
in Madrid, the police are clearly jumpy.
And it is clear who they are watching, and watching out for. After a group
of Moroccans were held responsible for the Madrid blasts, few people with Mediterranean
or Islamic looks seem to venture near the new facilities to see what they look
Several reports suggest that people with these looks have had more than a few
visits from the police. Amnesty International
says it is concerned about reports that "refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers
and the homeless are being rounded up and detained as the Greek government mounts
the biggest security operation in the history of the Olympic Games."
Amnesty said: "The Greek government must protect athletes, officials,
journalists and spectators. It is responsible for the security of its citizens
and guests. However, this must not happen at the expense of human rights, especially
the human rights of vulnerable groups."
Amnesty International says it is concerned that "under the pretext of
building up security, state officials are violating, with impunity, basic human
rights and encouraging discrimination on racial grounds."
Amnesty expressed concerned about several issues. These include:
- Lack of transparency in the way the security apparatus will operate, particularly
regarding mechanisms for control and accountability;
- Muslims being targeted in a discriminatory manner in the name of security;
- Violation of the basic human rights of socially marginalized groups of people;
- Impunity for security and state officials.
Amnesty points out that the new legislation on "terrorism" does not
fully guarantee a fair trial and does not clearly define "terrorist acts."
Amnesty added: "Olympic Games conducted against a backdrop of security
measures which violate human rights would be the very antithesis of the games'
original purpose to promote peaceful competition, the pursuit of excellence
and common humanity."
Several of the security measures have been put in place to handle a major attack.
Aerial surveillance systems are being put in place by the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), which was requested to step in after the March 11 bombings
in Madrid. Patriot surface to air missiles have been installed around Athens
and in other cities where football competitions and some other sporting events
will be held.
Local reports suggest that more than 70,000 security officers will be on duty,
and that the organizers will spend about $1.5 billion on security. Several countries
are sending in their own armed guards to provide security for their athletes.
But rights advocates are less concerned about the expense than over the people
who may be targeted. The Greek government declares there are no ethnic divisions
within the 10.6 million population. About 1.3 percent of the population is Muslim.
Rights advocates say visitors could be particularly vulnerable. The announcement
that a separate detention center has been prepared for foreigners who break
the law has led to renewed fears among minority groups within Greece.
Nikos Constantopoulos, president of the opposition Coalition of the Left, said
in a statement that Greece was under pressure to accept "Rambo mechanisms
of surveillance and repression."
The Greek branch of Amnesty International says "the games are escorted
by extensive security measures that are unprecedented for Greece. Even though
it is recognized as the right of the country to take measures that are deemed
necessary, there is, however, fear that the measures affect negatively basic
(Inter Press Service)