Security in focus at worldwide sporting events after Boston Marathon bombing

continued from page 1

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

Heiberg, who organized the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and now chairs the IOC’s marketing commission, said security concerns had been heightened since the Sept. 11, 2011, terror attacks in the United States. Since then, Olympics have passed off peacefully in Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin, Beijing, Vancouver and London.

“So far we have been lucky in the Olympics but what happened in Boston reminds us that we cannot take it easy, we have to continue and we have to plan for not only the possible but also the impossible,” Heiberg said. “We are taking it extremely seriously in Sochi, working very hard with the Russian authorities.”

The Russian Interior Ministry said Tuesday it has fully deployed the police force that will be in place during the Sochi Olympics and has conducted regular checks of all venues to make sure they are protected.

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Institute of Strategic Assessment and Analysis, an independent think-tank, said international terror groups could be encouraged by the carnage in Boston to plot against the Sochi Olympics.

“The terrorists’ strategy is to create a sense of panic and leave an impression that they can strike any target, no matter how tightly it’s protected,” Konovalov said. “The Olympics would make a highly desirable goal for terrorists, offering the maximum publicity.”

Russia is also hosting one of the biggest international sports events of 2013 — the world track and field championships in Moscow on Aug. 10-18.

“Our security measures are tough as they are,” said Mikhail Butov, secretary general of the Russian Athletics Federation. “But when it’s clear what actually happened (in Boston), we will draw our conclusions.”

Guarding the Olympics is a massive operation covering 17 days of competition in numerous outdoor and indoor venues. Not only are sports facilities at risk, but so are the public areas where fans and spectators congregate. At the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, a backpack bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park, killing one person and injuring more than 100.

“The balance is not easy,” Heiberg said. “Of course, you can provide security but we don’t want to show the world pictures of soldiers and police with guns and so on. It’s the same for Rio and all the others to come.”

Rio organizers, who will be hosting the first Olympics in South America, said they are working with the government to “deliver safe games in 2016.”

The city has won kudos for its crackdown on once-endemic drug violence in preparation for hosting the World Cup and Olympics. But safety has been a big topic in Rio recently after an American woman was gang raped and beaten aboard a public transit van while her handcuffed French boyfriend looked on helplessly.

Ahead of next year’s World Cup, Brazil is hosting the Confederations Cup in June. The warm-up tournament featuring eight teams will be played in six cities across the country and is seen as a big test for organizers in all areas.

On Sunday, two fans were shot to death on their way to a match meant to test the facilities at a World Cup stadium in northeastern Brazil. Rival supporters were suspected in the killings.

The terror threat was considered high for last year’s London Olympics, where overall security costs rose above 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion). London was hit by terrorism in 2005, when 52 people were killed in attacks by suicide bombers on the city’s transportation network.

London’s huge security operation included thousands of police and military troops and deployment of warships, surveillance aircraft, sniper-carrying helicopters, fighter jets and missile batteries on rooftops.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

blog comments powered by Disqus