Louis Mizell scares people. He's not trying to. He just does.
Mizell, a former State Department special agent, has compiled a
database on terrorism with more than 40,000 entries over the last
three decades. And when he types in the word sports, what his
computer spits out is enough to make Tim Duncan go wide-eyed.
"There have been more than 170 terrorist events involving
athletes or athletic events since the 1972 Munich Olympics,"
Mizell says. "To protect an event the size of the Olympics, you
have to know what the bad guys know about what has worked in the
What has worked in the past, according to Mizell, is stunning in
its variety, from moles who held jobs in the Olympic Village
(used at Munich) to an exploding softball bat (used in Chile in
1990 to kill a Canadian businessman and wound three other people
during a friendly game).
Despite a June announcement from Interpol that it had discovered
no threat to the 2004 Olympics, fear of a terrorist incident has
led some athletes to opt out and others to tell their families
not to accompany them to Athens. Fear has also been blamed for
slow sales of tickets and Olympics tour packages.
Greece hasn't shed its reputation for porous borders and lax
security even though it will have spent $1.5 billion to safeguard
the Games--six times the amount spent at the 2000 Sydney
Olympics. Athens will have the largest single-event security
force ever, including 70,000 police and military personnel and
NATO's entire Mediterranean fleet. "Is there any country that can
guarantee 100 percent security?" asks Gianna
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens organizing
committee. "What we are doing is over the top."
Several tests of Greece's preparedness, however, have yielded
mixed results. FBI director Robert Mueller told a U.S. Senate
committee in May that his antiterrorism experts had alerted the
Greeks to a number of gaps in their safety net. The Greek
government even put a hold on the final payment to the U.S.-led
consortium building the security infrastructure. The consortium
was to have installed thousands of infrared and high-resolution
cameras around Games venues by May 28 but wasn't finished until
One reason for this was delays in venue construction, which made
it impossible to put high-tech security in place. It didn't help
that 100 days before the opening ceremonies, bombs destroyed part
of an Athens police station and that in mid-July a power outage
crippled the mass transit system that would provide a means of
escape during an attack.
During the opening ceremonies on Aug. 13, Mizell expects to be in
Washington, D.C., fielding calls from Greek security officials
and hoping for the best. "Knowledge is very important in
thwarting terrorism, but luck plays a role too," he says. "An IRA
terrorist once said it best: 'You have to be lucky every time. We
only have to be lucky once.'" --Don Yaeger