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Music

No such thing as absolute security, says head of German concert arena

Concert halls, wedding receptions and clubs: Closed spaces are a preferred target for terrorists. The director of one of Germany's biggest concert venues tells DW what safety measures can be taken.

The Lanxess arena in Cologne is one of the biggest of its kind in Germany and can hold up to 20,000 people. It hosts major sports events like ice hockey games, as well as world-class concerts by the likes of Britney Spears, Madonna and U2. Stefan Löcher is the managing director of the arena and responsible for the safety of about 1.4 million visitors each year.

DW: What went through your mind when you heard about the attacks in Paris - and particularly the hostage situation in the Bataclan?

I thought that these attacks have reached a new dimension. It's something that we've gone over in our heads theoretically of course. But attacks like these pose challenges that are almost impossible to overcome. The reality of it is that I could post 400 security guards in front of our arena - if people attack with Kalashnikov rifles, the guards will either manage to escape or be shot themselves. We're talking about a situation in which you really need involvement by police or other authorities.

Do you feel powerless in the face of events like that?

Let me put it this way: It doesn't matter if it's a concert hall, a cinema, a stadium or a train station. If a group of armed attackers storm a public place, the only way to counteract that attack is to make sure these people are neutralized as a threat. To really prevent this from happening you would have to station heavily armed police or soldiers everywhere. Suicide bombers are a different matter. You can check if someone is carrying explosive material. Training and alertness can help lower the risk of a bomb going off to a minimum.

What safety measures are you routinely taking at your arena?

Our safety standard is very high: We search visitors and their bags. For some events, we even use detectors and scans. We employ very experienced security staff and make sure unauthorized people can't access backstage areas. We have a detailed safety plan and work closely with police. We have an evacuation plan and the nearest police station is only 200 meters away. These things help, of course. But it would be presumptuous to say that we have a plan for that kind of shooting spree. If the last 10 or 20 years haven proven anything, it's that there is no such thing as absolute security.

Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Copyright: AMG

The Lanxess Arena is in the heart of Cologne in central-western Germany

Are there any specific measures that you are taking after the events in Paris?

As I said, our safety standards are already very high. The realization that something like this could happen is not new, so high-profile venues like ours are prepared. However, I assume that there will be an increase in body searches at the entrance.

Will any of your concerts or events be canceled?

Nothing has been canceled so far and I don't expect anything will be.

The German folk band Santiano is giving a concert at the Lanxess arena in two weeks. They have often played gigs at high-profile rock events. Is this event at risk of becoming a target more than other concerts in your view?

Absolutely not. I think it was pure coincidence that the attacks in Paris happened at a rock concert. It wasn't about this specific type of music. Presumably, the attackers chose this day because of the friendly between Germany and France. It could have been any band playing there on stage.

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