More than 4,000 soldiers will help with Olympic security
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian authorities are spending millions of dollars to put thousands of security officers on the streets for the Sydney Olympic Games. If everything goes to plan, hardly anyone will notice.
The federal government today announced a security budget for September's games of $43 million and said more than 4,000 defence force personnel will be deployed to bolster the number of state police in Sydney.
Australia's special commando troops will begin a new round of Olympics training in May, and the Olympics force will also include operatives from the Australian Security and Intelligence Agency, the equivalent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Defence Minister John Moore said.
During two antiterrorism exercises already held in Sydney, squads of Blackhawk helicopters swooped over the city, dropping commandos by rope over city landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House.
Moore said a buildup of uniformed New South Wales state police, federal officers and military personnel will begin in May and last until after the games finish in October.
Officials say that while the force, expected to total 11,000, will be ready to deal with any terrorist threat swiftly and harshly, it will also be discreet.
"At present, there is no specific threat of terrorism against the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games," Attorney-general Daryl Williams said.
"The government wants to ensure that the security operation for the games will be effective, friendly and unobtrusive."
The funding announcement came on the same day that a man charged with trying to extort millions of dollars by threatening to blow up airplanes during the games was denied bail in a Sydney court.
Mehmet Akin Kayirici, 35, of Sydney, was ordered to remain in custody until he is put on trial. He is charged with making a series of demands for money and the release of overseas prisoners in letters sent to foreign consulates, including the U.S. consulate, in Sydney between 1997 and 1999.
Prosecutors say Kayirici threatened to shoot down planes carrying athletes to the Sydney Games if his demands were not met.
Williams said the two earlier counter-terrorism training exercises had shown that, "Australia stands ready to deal swiftly and efficiently with any threat against the Games and national security."
Moore said during the games, soldiers would help with searches of venues for suspicious items, bomb disposal, underwater searches of ships and waterways and transport of some Olympic officials, particularly those involved with drug testing.