Worried about the potential for a terrorist catastrophe, Greece is spending about $1.5 billion on security for the Olympic Games. The biggest threats so far? Foreign journalists and a Canadian guy dressed in a tutu.
Overeager reporters trying to document weak spots in the security net draped over Athens have become a regular menace for police. A Chinese television crew was caught filming a Patriot missile battery. Three crews of Mexican reporters have been detained for faking robberies and entering forbidden zones.
Last weekend, an undercover British tabloid journalist disclosed that he successfully planted two fake bombs at the Olympic Stadium and passed through checkpoints with a badge identifying himself as "Robert bin Laden."
But after months of talk about possible terrorist attacks and the likelihood of chaos at the Athens Olympics, the only disruptions during the first week of competition have been decidedly minor. The absence of problems has come as a welcome relief to Greek officials, who are just as happy to see the global media pack swarm to cover small-bore misdemeanors.
Perhaps the most serious security breach occurred Monday, when a Montreal man wearing a blue tutu and polka-dotted tights climbed the three-meter platform and plunged into the Olympic diving pool shortly after an official competition had ended. Justice came swiftly; two days later, 31-year-old Ron Bensimhon was convicted of interrupting the Games and sentenced to five months behind bars.
Some of the most prominent law-enforcement investigations have focused not on suspected terrorists, but athletes. The local prosecutor has opened a probe into a mysterious motorcycle accident reported by two star Greek sprinters involved in a drug-testing scandal. And a member of the Danish sailing team was charged with manslaughter in the death of a British tourist struck by a car.
Olympic organizers and Greek government officials say they remain on high alert for a terrorist attack and promise not to let their guard down until the Games end. But signs of relief are apparent.
Spilios P. Spiliotopoulos, the Greek defense minister, was feeling confident enough to invite two dozen foreign journalists to lunch Thursday and politely bragged about how successful the security preparations have been. He said Greece was now in a position to advise China -- host of the 2008 Summer Olympics -- on how to avoid terrorist attacks.
"Nobody is relaxing," he said. "There is no feeling that, well, we've started very well, so let's go on vacation. . . . But there were some people who came to Greece for the Olympics, but left their families abroad, and now they have come to regret it. They missed a very good opportunity."
Other nightmare predictions have dissipated. Before the Olympics, unions representing workers from paramedics to prostitutes to hotel workers threatened to go on strike -- no idle threat in Athens, a city usually riddled by labor stoppages -- but none has followed through.
Political protests, another popular pastime here, have been noticeably absent. About the only one so far: a small public demonstration against the presence of a security blimp patrolling the skies, followed by a lawsuit accusing the airship of illegally eavesdropping on conversations. Justice alspo was also swift in that case; a judge ruled Tuesday that the blimp could stay aloft.
Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said she was not surprised at the lack of problems, despite Greece's reputation as a place where things often don't run smoothly.
"People asked me, will Athenians go on strike? And I said no," she said in an interview at Athens City Hall. "Why? Because Greeks want the Games to succeed. They also want to show the world that a new Greece is emerging with a new self-confidence. Most people didn't trust us to work as a team, but we did."
Boyakannis said her most dreaded scenario was that the city's notoriously clogged streets would be overcome with gridlock. But traffic in Athens is lighter than it has been in years, thanks in part to new roads and an expanded mass transit system. It also hasn't hurt that 40 percent of the city's population left town for the duration of the Games, according to figures cited by the mayor.
"We were very concerned about traffic," she said. "We didn't know if the Olympic lanes [reserved for buses and other Games related traffic] would work. But something incredible happened: People respected the Olympic lanes. Even at 4 a.m., when they didn't need to."
The Greek government says it has mobilized 70,000 police, firefighters, soldiers and other security forces to keep order during the Games. More than 1,000 cameras keep watch on the streets and in the subway system. Metal detectors are present at all Olympic sites, not to mention many hotels.
Security has not been foolproof. Greek officials bristled at the British newspaper report in the Sunday Mirror that a correspondent was able to penetrate checkpoints with ease and sign up for work as a contractor without undergoing a background check, but did not specifically deny any of the allegations.
And some police on duty have clearly become less vigilant in recent days; two uniformed municipal officers near the ancient Agora archeological site in downtown Athens spent part of Thursday playing backgammon at a cafe.
But as the Greek government points out, there also have been complaints that security forces have been overzealous. A police squad on the island of Crete generated headlines for detaining an anti-doping squad that had come to test an athlete in the city of Chania amid suspicions -- later proven to be unfounded -- that the drug testers might be terrorists.
"Once we were accused of not doing enough or following the proper procedures," said Theodoros Roussopoulos, a government spokesman. "But it's been proven ever since the Games began that procedures have been followed correctly and that the Greek state has taken all the necessary security measures. Hopefully, this will remain the case until the Games are over."