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Security Blimp Makes 1st Patrol of Athens

Associated Press
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page E06

A sensor-laden blimp made a patrol over Olympic venues and sensitive areas in Athens yesterday as Greek authorities carried out final tests for safeguarding the Aug. 13-29 Olympic Games.

The 200-foot blimp, mounted with dome-shaped sensors, including chemical "sniffers" and ultra-high-resolution cameras, flew over Athens for more than three hours. During the Games, the airship is expected to float over the capital for more than 15 hours daily, joining a network of surveillance vans and nine police helicopters.

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The blimp is part of an electronic web of more than 1,000 cameras, sensors and other devices tied together over a secure communications network to a command center. The system cost $312 million and took up a considerable portion of Athens's record security budget of more than $1.5 billion.

Today, Greek authorities will test part of the network -- including its system of cameras and communications -- during a three-hour Olympic security transportation drill. The drill involves public transit and the operation of special Olympic traffic lanes to be used by accredited vehicles, including buses carrying athletes.

Greek Baseball Team Will Get Home

The Greek Olympic baseball team has sufficient financial backing to go to Greece after working out next month in the United States, an official from the Baltimore Orioles said.

On Friday, the president of the Greek Baseball Federation declared that the team is so short of cash that it has no funds to return for the Games.

"At this moment we do not have money to pay for the tickets for our team to come to participate in the Olympic Games," Panos Mitsiopoulos told the Associated Press.

That is not the case, according to Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka.

"We were surprised to hear that," Stetka said. "It's a nonissue. The flights have been arranged, and the cost already covered, through a cooperative effort by the Orioles, Major League Baseball, the Greek Federation and the family of Peter Angelos."

Peter Angelos, a Greek American who owns the Orioles, helped organize the Greek Olympic team.

Stetka said the team will begin practicing in the Baltimore area on Aug. 2 and will stay through Aug. 4 before heading home to Greece.

Mitsiopoulos claims the federation only received about a third of the promised $372,000 for Olympics preparations. He added that other Greek sports federations are also short on funds.

"This is happening with all the teams. All the federations are complaining," Mitsiopoulos said.

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