Unusual security measures for basketball meet
May 4, 2007 - 2:10:35 PM

Athens, May 4 - About 20,000 officers have been deployed from Athens and other Greek cities to prevent violence during the Euroleague final four basketball tournament.

Police squads from across the country have been divided into three operational centres and three security zones around Athens city centre ahead of this weekend's final, which ends Monday, and the Champions League match at the Olympic stadium May 23.

The operational centres have been set up inside the Olympic Indoor Sports Hall that will host the game and police headquarters, as was the case with the 2004 Olympics.

Rigorous security checks will also be extended to ticket holders to make sure they do not have objects that could cause bodily harm and destruction.

Officers, including riot police, will be stationed outside hotels, cafes and bars that fans are expected to frequent, with officials saying that steps will be taken to stop fans drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Security checks will begin at airports as well as from the countries or origin of the fans. Police chief Anastasios Dimoshakis said Greek police were in close cooperation with all European police forces as well as with travel companies and charter flights bringing in fans.

Dimoshakis had warned basketball and soccer fans who couldn't get their hands on tickets for either the Euroleague final or the Champions League weeks earlier to not travel to Greece.

Officials have also upgraded and installed more surveillance cameras at the Olympic Indoor Sports Hall and at the 70,000-seat Olympic stadium where the football game will be played and forced fans to prove their identity when buying tickets.

The draconian measures, on a scale with those enacted during the 2004 Athens Olympics, were part of a campaign to tackle hooliganism.

All Greek professional team sports were suspended for two weeks after a fan was killed in the March 29 clashes between supporters of soccer clubs Olympiakos and Panathinakos.

UEFA fined the Greek soccer federation and ordered Greece to hold its next two 2008 European championship qualifiers outside of Athens following fan violence against Turkey last month.

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