U.S., NATO forces to protect Olympic Games
August 9, 2004
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — As American athletes go for the gold in this month’s Olympic Games, U.S. and NATO planes and ships will patrol nearby to protect against a terror attack in Greece.
NATO allies will provide air and maritime patrols, intelligence and a special chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense team as part of an operation dubbed “Distinguished Games.”
Military forces began operations on Monday and will augment Greek military authorities until the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Sept. 30, according to the Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.
The Greek government is sensitive to NATO’s contribution to Olympic security, and American officials are reluctant to talk on the record about the extent the U.S. military is involved. Part of the reason, also, is that NATO officials and the Greek government are still discussing how alliance members can help.
“A lot of the details are still under discussion,” a U.S. State Department official said on Friday.
Keeping the games safe has been a huge focus by Greek and foreign security officials.
The Olympics will be protected by a $1.5 billion security and surveillance system, the most expensive in Olympic history.
The U.S. military’s involvement in the security operations will be through NATO, U.S. officials said.
The alliance's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean — an eight-ship force of destroyers and frigates from seven nations — will conduct maritime surveillance in international waters with the Hellenic Navy and Coast Guard. Spy planes and submarines will back up the naval force, which this week turned command over to Commodore Ioannis Karaiskos of the Hellenic Navy.
The guided-missile frigate USS Elrod, which is homeported in Norfolk, Va., is the lone U.S. warship that is a part of the NATO group.
Reconnaissance planes, along with Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes, will provide surveillance from the sky.
Elements of the Multinational Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion are deployed in Halkida, Greece.
Adm. Gregory Johnson, the U.S. Navy’s top officer in Europe, is overseeing NATO’s plan to guard the games.
In addition to NATO’s support, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program helped train 200 Hellenic Coast Guard member in underwater explosives and weapons of mass destruction emergency response.
In the last two years, members of the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program have helped train nearly 1,300 Greek security officials, according to the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
During a ceremony in Greece, the U.S. government donated three, 27-foot Boston Whalers to the Hellenic Coast Guard to help patrol ports and marines around Greece during the Olympics.