Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Olympic Games in Athens to test security

With ticket sales suddenly swelling to a rate of 85,000 a day, organisers of the Athens Olympics say that their marathon preparations have paid off and they are hitting all their targets.

Meanwhile, hundreds of competitors poured into the city, shrugging off fears of terrorist attack, saying that they, too, were ready for the Games to begin.

Among them was fresh-faced Australian swimmer Lisbeth Lenton who burst into tears at her first sight of the Olympic pool. "But they were tears of joy," the 19-year-old competing in her first Olympics Games said.

One highlight of the 28th Games is expected to be the battle between the United States and Australia in swimming but the Australian athletes insisted at a news conference that all the competitors in swimming were good.

Few Olympics have produced as much worry as the Games return to the land of its birth with dire predictions that a Greek tragedy was in the offing.

With opening day in only three days, though, officials say they are no longer worried about such things as poor attendance, half-finished stadia or lax security.

They say everything is ready and that the country's seven-year-long Olympic marathon since winning the bid in 1997 has been completed with a fantastic burst of energy at the end, informs

According to when the Olympic Games open in Athens on Friday, they will be more than just a test of athletes. One of the biggest challenges is whether the first Games since the 9/11 attacks can pass off safely, despite the threat of international terrorism.

The Greek government has thrown everything into securing the city, spending more than $1.2bn on security - three times what was spent on Sydney 2000. A Nato force is on standby, Patriot missile batteries stand ready to down rogue aircraft while a network of cameras co-ordinate the efforts of 70,000 police, soldiers and emergency workers. Athletes from high-risk nations like the United States, Israel and Britain have been afforded armed guards. Security searches for spectators will be rigorous, officials say.

As Prime Minister Karamanlis was quoted as saying in a recent interview with Time magazine: "One might say that some of the things said or done may border on excessive, exaggeration or sometimes hysteria.

"But one cannot dismiss a legitimate concern. So the only answer is: Try it. It's secure. All that had to be done has been done."