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 past."
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 last week.
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.' "