Warnings planned for athletes on latest threats of danger

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2008, 12:00am

International Olympic stars arriving at the athletes' village in Beijing, which opens today, will be warned to be extra-vigilant following the alleged terrorist threat by the Turkistan Islamic Party.

Australian team officials in Beijing discussed the threat and said they would brief their athletes on arrival. Their first delegation enters the village tomorrow.

'We have had a team meeting and discussed this report with Australian Federal Police members who are here. With them, we shall advise our athletes about the threat,' Australian Olympic Association spokesman Mike Tancred said.

'However, we have every confidence in the Chinese security officials, who we believe are adequately prepared. We believe ... athletes coming to the Games will be well protected,' he said.

Olympic sponsors, who will invite scores of VIPs, will be told the terror threat is now real.

'We have been monitoring this for several months. We have reported to our clients that while security at the venues is strong, other areas are vulnerable, such as subway stations,' said a source from an international security risk-assessment company representing sponsors.

'From our tests, we believe such areas are weak because of the high volume of people and poorly trained personnel.

'That the terror group [in Friday's video] claims to have targeted public transport in China means we now believe the threat during the Games to be tangible,' he said.

US President George W. Bush will arrive in Beijing to open the new US embassy on August 8 and attend the Olympics' opening ceremony.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy said diplomats were unaware of the latest threat and would 'await further instructions' from Washington.

A spokesman for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, Sun Weide , would not say if security around the Olympic areas would be increased. But he assured visitors that the anti-terrorist units among the 110,000 security personnel to be deployed during the Olympics would protect them from any attack.

'We have taken note of this threat and we are prepared for any kind of terrorist incident,' he said.

'The Chinese government doubts the claim, however. We are sure we can guarantee a safe Olympics for all the athletes and visitors.'

The athletes' village is spread over 60 hectares and contains apartment blocks, religious venues, restaurants and leisure facilities.

It will accommodate 16,000 athletes and support staff. Similar complexes exist in Qingdao for the sailing events and at the equestrian centre in Hong Kong.

Terrorism has long been a threat to the Olympics, and much of a host country's budget is spent on security.

At the 1972 Munich Games, Palestinians broke into the Olympic village and murdered 11 Israeli athletes.