By Prokopius Ziros
August 13, 2004 is a day that has already passed into history as the day that Greece, one of the smallest countries in the world, but also the country with the most extensive history of over 3.000 years, the country that gave the lights of civilization to all other countries all over the world, opened the 28th Olympiad in the most glorious and fantastic way. After 108 years, the Games returned to their mother country.
70,000 spectators from all over the world, including over 600 Statesmen, Royalty, and Presidents, including former U.S President George H. Bush, English Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Queen of Spain Sophia, German President Keller, President of Turkey Erdogan, and many others, were present at the opening ceremony. 202 countries were represented with 11.099 athletes. Many said that Greece would fail, and that the security would be below standards. Greeks are not known for being fast with completing tasks, but they are known for completing what they start and for their National pride. We have a saying in Greece, “Kallio arga para pote” which translates to, “Better late than never.” Greece, nevertheless, showed the world that it could be done.
The Olympic Games are a universal athletic and cultural event, a preeminent event in which Hellenic Police were called upon to ensure a secure and peaceful environment. This environment, entirely balanced with the festive character of the event, allowed everyone to enjoy the unique experience of the Olympic games in the land where they were born.
In this national endeavor, the Ministry of Public Order, and more specifically the Hellenic Police, were not alone. The Armed Forces, the Fire Brigade, the Coast Guard, the National Intelligence Service as well as the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games ATHENS 2004 and another 72 agencies were also participating.
From the moment Hellenic Police, a force of approximately 55.000 officers, took on this responsibility, they worked hard on the basis of a long-term plan that commenced on the day Greece undertook the hosting of the 2004 Olympic games and continued developing until the last day of the Games. For someone to get an idea how much the Security for the Olympic Games has changed over the years, in 1896, in the first Olympic games held in Athens, there were only 400 security personnel assigned to the Games. The Police had struck a deal, after negotiations with the criminals and thieves of the time, that they wouldn’t commit any crimes during the Games so Greece would look its best in the eyes of the world.
Hosting the Olympic games in an environment of absolute security was the highest priority for Hellenic Police and for the Ministry of Public Order.
Greece’s National Police Force and its elite unit of EKAM (Eidiki Katastaltiki Antitromokratiki Monada), which translates to Specialized Antiterrorist Team, played a large role in the security of the Olympic Games.
Their headquarters are located in Athens and their basic structure is comprised of several teams. One of those teams is located in the Elefterios Venizelos International Airport, also located in Attika. The EKAM teams are responsible of intervening in extreme terrorist and criminal attacks involving hijacking, kidnapping, and attacks involving Weapons of Mass Destruction or CBRN materials. They also support other police and government agencies in dealing with violent terrorist and criminal organizations, including high-risk arrests, and protecting VIP’s and visiting foreign heads of State. There are approximately 200 men assigned to EKAM. That is a low number considering that the Hellenic National Police Force consists of over 55,000 officers.
To become an EKAM member, one must already be an experienced National Police Officer, on active duty, and they must meet specific medical, physical and psychological requirements.
When one is elected, he/she must go through a 3-month basic training program. This type of program is very rigorous and designed to develop the combative skills needed to accomplish their particular mission. Part of their training is comprised of martial arts training, with an emphasis on close combat, combat shooting, counter terrorist sniping, explosive training, high speed driving, helicopter insertion techniques, and hostage rescue exercises. EKAM trains all over Greece with the assistance of the Greek Armed Forces. They also cross train with other European elite units such as the British S019, the German SEK, the Austrian Cobra, the French RAID, and the Spanish GEO. They also enhance their training with cooperation of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the US Marshal Service Operations Group and the Army Special Forces.
SPECIALIZED WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT
EKAM uses the best specialized firearms and hardware available. For a submachine gun they use the Heckler & Koch MP5A2 and A3 models, the MP5SD, the MP5K, all in 9 mm caliber. Some Uzi’s and Beretta PM12’s are also still in service but rarely seen. Additionally, EKAM uses the 5.7mm FN P90, which is utilized in short-range urban encounters up to 150 meters. Most of their submachine guns are equipped with laser designators, Surefire flashlights, and some Red-Dot aiming devices. Some submachine guns are equipped with Hensoldt scopes.
EKAM also uses assault rifles for long range engagements, or where greater firepower is needed. The weapons in use with EKAM were the Colt M16/M4 in 5.56mm and variants such as Bushmaster rifles, and the Russian 7.62x39 AK-47, although rarely seen.
The primary handgun issued to EKAM members is the Glock 21 .45ACP. In addition to this handgun, EKAM operatives have several other handguns at their disposal, including the SIG Sauer pistol, the FN 5.7mm pistol, and the Ruger .357 revolver. Also observed was an Israeli Jericho worn by a veteran of EKAM.
The sniper rifles utilized by EKAM are vital for the suppression of hostage takers, and the unit is equipped with some of the best. Currently in service is the SAKO 7.62 bolt-action rifle, the Heckler and Koch G3/SG1, the Accuracy International AW bolt-action rifle in 7.62mm, a Stoner SR25 semiautomatic 7.62mm rifle and a Ruger M-77 7.62mm bolt-action rifle threaded and ported for suppressor use. All these rifles are also equipped with the latest in optics hardware.
The 12-gauge shotgun is not a common tool for the Hellenic Police Force, but EKAM does use the Remington 870 as a close assault weapon, and for breeching purposes. Unlike the popularity of the shotgun in United States, Europeans consider it barbaric and use it mostly for hunting. It is not unusual to see Police Officers carrying submachine guns as the primary duty weapons while on patrol.
EKAM’s specialized equipment includes all the newest electronic gadgetry, ballistic helmets, fire resistant overalls, combat vests, gas masks, and CS gas and stun grenades, diving gear, explosives and breaching devices, night vision optics, surveillance instruments, and several explosive detection and disposal tools. EKAM is also equipped with some non-lethal weapons such as Tasers, and a Manurhin MR35 punch, which is considered a firearm and uses large rubber balls to strike assailants.
Some of EKAM’s most important deployments have been the assisting in the dismantling of one of the worst Greek terrorist organizations, the 17 November, plus the storming of a hijacked Turkish airliner at Athens International Airport in March of 2003, which resulted in the hijacker being securely taken into custody and all passengers safely released.
EKAM, along with all other security personnel, played a major role in the 2004 Olympic Games Security. They worked around the clock without days off for over a month to assure the athletes, visitor/spectators, and Heads of State, the safest Olympic Games ever. For those that doubted Greece’s ability to complete this task, well...actions do speak better than words.
A special thank you to Hellenic Police Press Spokesman Col. Elefterios Oikonomou for his assistance with this article, and Athens International Airport EKAM Captains Petros Patsilinakos and Nikos Kokkinis for their cooperation and gracious hospitality.
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