Dr.Sc.Polyt., Professor A.P. Koshkin1
Dr.Sc.Hist., Professor I.V. Yablochkina1
PhD, Associate Professor A.V. Novikov1
1Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow
Keywords: sports, terror, risk, security, Olympic Games.
Background. The article analyzes modern sports, the sports-related risks and modern terroristic activity as the three global social phenomena. However unimportant the modern sports may seem among the other potential targets for the acts of terror, they are still not fully immune to them. There are still more obvious manifestations of political tensions in sports (e.g., boycotts like the apartheid-protesting boycott of RSA; boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by the US; biased anti-doping campaigns etc.), but the sports system exposure to terror shall not be underestimated – as verified by 164 reported terror attacks during or in connection with the sports events in the period of 1972-2014 .
Objective of the study was to rate exposure of the top-ranking sport events to the risks of terror.
Methods and structure of the study. We applied for the study purposes a historical analysis, comparative analysis and neo-institutional approach.
Results and discussion. It is the growing global popularity of the Olympic Games that has made them a potential target for the acts of terror. We would mention first the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics in which the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took eleven Israeli Olympic team members hostage to later kill them all plus a West German police officer. Since then the politically indoctrinated terrorism was of serious influence on the Olympics. The Munich massacre was so unexpected and blatant that its repercussions went far beyond the sports sector and gave a boost to terrorism. It should be mentioned that the relevant West German authorities were warned of potential politically motivated attacks prior to the Munich Games, although none of these reports indicated that the Israeli team was targeted. The German officials even had a meeting with an Israeli diplomat in the Olympic village to discuss issues of security. Despite these reports and discussions, the German government and local authorities failed to provide due security service to the Olympians. On September 5, 1972 terrorists took hostages and demanded to release more than 200 Arab political prisoners held by Israel. They also demanded a safe escape for themselves and the hostages via an airport of their choice to fly back to the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir stated that her country would not meet the demands.
The West German government came up with a plan to free the hostages, but the terrorists demanded to end up the operation after the snipers taking their positions were televised. However, the special service revised the plan. The terrorists and the still alive hostages were allowed to leave the Olympic Village for the Furstenfeldbruck airfield, where an ambush attack was planned. The Palestinian terrorists, however, noted the trap and detonated hand grenades in helicopters to kill 17 people in total. As a result, four national teams (Egypt, Israel, Algeria and the Philippines) plus some members of the US, the Netherlands and Norway teams left the Games. The Israeli government called for the Games to be cancelled, but the IOC opposed the claim arguing that otherwise the Games would always be targets for such attacks. Instead, the organizers cancelled all the events of September 7 and held a memorial service for the dead .
Despite the failure at the airport, the Palestinian terrorists became popular worldwide beyond their expectations. Foud al-Chameli, one of leaders of the terror group, explained why the Israeli Olympic athletes were targeted by the attackers: “The bombing in Israel does not serve our cause ... We must kill their most prominent and famous people. Since we cannot reach their government officers, we must kill their artists and athletes”. As late as in 2006, Abu Dawood, the surviving plotter of the Munich attack, was still convinced of its benefits for the Palestinian cause. He commented: “We were nothing but only terrorists before Munich. After Munich, people have been asking: “Who are these terrorists? What do they want?’ Before Munich, no one had a slightest idea what the Palestine’s case is all about”.
The Munich massacre forced hosts of the Olympics since then give a special attention to the security systems with the inevitable draconian implications and limitations for the athletes, officials and supporters. The security system in the 1976 Olympic Games, for instance, was so intrusive and constraining that “the village was turned into a sort of a prison camp” . Despite the inconveniences, the security system solutions offered for and tested at these Games provided a model case for the next Olympic events.
The efforts to improve the security systems, however, failed to prevent the next few attempts. After South Korea was nominated a host country for the 1988 Olympic Games, the North Korean government wanted to co-host the event, but the claim was rejected. As a result, North Korea was suspected to plot the two bombings that happened soon in order to complicate preparations for the Games. The widely publicized evidence of the North Korea's involvement in the terrorist attack on a South Korean airliner in November 1987 could have helped prevent the country's further attempts to derail the Games.
Following the Ro Dae-woo elected a South Korean president in February 1988, Japan and the United States provided direct assistance to Korea’s security service for the Games. Japan checked thousands of airline flights and visitors passing through Tokyo and other Japanese cities on their way to the Olympic city; and the US deployed additional air, naval and security units and systems in and around South Korea prior to the Games.
In 1992, two Spanish terrorist groups tried to disrupt the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Barcelona. Basque separatist group ETA blew up the power transmission pylons trying to paralyze the power supply to the event. And the Marxist group GRAPO blew up three bombs on gas pipelines outside Barcelona. Although both of the attacks caused some damage, they were almost ignored by the leading world media organizations.
At the Games in Atlanta in 1996, a bomb in the Centennial Park, planted by a lone American extremist, killed one and injured more than 100 spectators; plus one journalist died of a heart attack resulting from the shock . The Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta was a recreational area designed to host visitors to the Games where athletes and the public could meet and enjoy services and goods of Olympic sponsors. A bomb hidden in a backpack exploded early Saturday morning July 27. As in 1972, the authorities decided that the Games should not be cancelled otherwise it would mean victory for the terrorists. The US President Bill Clinton stated “we cannot let the terrorism win”, and the IOC Director-General Francois Carrard reiterated the Avery Brundage's 1972 remark that the Games must go on. The event was resumed although the Centennial Park was closed for three days, and when it reopened, security procedures at the entrance were much more stringent. The terrorist attacks of 1992 and 1996 showed that terrorists targeted not only the official sport facilities of the Games.
Security system at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics was made even more stringent and sophisticated as a result of the September 11. In a special press release, the White House outlined a new approach to the Games as “transparent and top secure” . The new security system implied new check procedures at airports, with parking of vehicles prohibited within 100m zones around the sports facilities. The Organizing Committee purchased anthrax pills, and the Utah government deployed special health monitoring systems to prevent potential attempts of bioterrorism, with biometric scanners widely used to check the accredited officials and athletes. 60 federal, state and local institutions and more than 15,000 people, including 10,000 national guards were contracted for the security service at the Games. The September 11 attacks were reported to increase the security costs of the Games by USD70 million to about USD500 million in total – twice as much as the security budget of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta .
Russia has never been immune to the terrorism related problems. Thus many experts tend to believe that the twin terrorist attacks of December 2013 in Volgograd were timed to the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi. The organizers reported the security budget of the 2014 Olympics equivalent to about USD2 billion  – i.e. comparable with the weapons and equipment procurement budgets of the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs altogether . The security system concept for the Games was drafted by the FSB and supported by revisions to the relevant federal security provisions and regulations. The Ministry of Internal Affairs created a special Olympiad-2014 Center and mobilized some 37 thousand police officers for the Sochi events. Every supply of construction materials for the Olympic facilities was thoroughly checked for explosives. Long before the start of the Games (since 2012), the National Anti-Terrorism Committee run 15 anti-terror drills modeled as close as possible to the expected real situations . Transport vehicles and cargo were thoroughly checked by mobile x-ray scanners and metal detectors; and 24-hour surveillance service was put in place to safeguard the Olympic park where most of the sports facilities were located. The host city with suburbs and the nearest mountains and water areas were controlled by drones and special security agents who scanned the crowds and residents. The whole area was covered by the so-called “profiling” system that tracked suspicious behavior of visitors during interviews to analyze the purposes of their visits, mood, first impressions etc. The anti-terror security system piloted at the Sochi Olympics was since then improved and used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to effectively prevent every attempted act of terror.
Conclusion. The study data and analyses give grounds to believe that the exposure of major global sport events to acts of terror will unlikely fall in the nearest future despite the high security standards of the last few global events on the whole and the Olympic Games in particular. Since the Olympic Games are deservedly ranked the top global sport event by their popularity, they will long be a target number one for terrorists. Global anti-terror efforts are being consolidated and perfected by the initiatives to expand and improve the international cooperation of the law-enforcement agencies, special and reconnaissance services and the relevant financial control agencies. International top-ranking competitions shall be supported by a well-designed and efficient international cooperation system to effectively prevent acts of terror during the Olympic Games and the other popular sport events.
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Corresponding author: email@example.com
The article analyzes the exposure of modern sports to terror risks in the context of the global growth of terroristic activity since 1972. Objective of the study was to rate exposure of the top-ranking sport events to the risks of terror. Applied for the study purposes was a historical analysis, comparative analysis and a neo-institutional approach. The study data and analyses give grounds to believe that the exposure of major global sport events to acts of terror will unlikely fall in the nearest future despite the high security standards of the last few global events on the whole and the Olympic Games in particular. Since the Olympic Games are deservedly ranked the top global sport event by their popularity, they will long be a target number one for terrorists. Global anti-terror efforts are being consolidated and perfected by the initiatives to expand and improve the international cooperation of the law-enforcement agencies, special and reconnaissance services and the relevant financial control agencies. International top-ranking competitions shall be supported by a well-designed and efficient international cooperation system to effectively prevent acts of terror during the Olympic Games and the other popular sport events.