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Security expert Helmut Spahn: no grounds for panic

Security expert Helmut Spahn says the Paris attacks are no reason for panic about security in football stadiums. He stresses that Germany has sent the right signal by going ahead with its friendly against Holland.

DW: In light of the latest terror attacks in Paris, should organizers of big sporting and other events be making any major changes to their security precautions?

Helmut Spahn: No! Now is the time to remain calm and avoid hasty decisions. We must not do what the terrorists want us to do, which is to change the way we live and curb our freedoms to an extent that we cannot enjoy sports anymore. We need to do our homework in a considered - as much as possible emotionless - neutral and objective way. In Europe and Germany in particular I have no doubt that this will happen.

The security measures at the Stade de France seem to have worked well. No terrorist was able to actually enter the stadium. How do the security measures at German stadiums stack up?

German stadiums are basically safe. Here, everybody has done their homework. When I personally enter a stadium, I have no major worries. You can trust in the fact that the German authorities and organizers will have done everything possible to ensure the greatest possible security.

Despite this, should the safety precautions surrounding football matches be stepped up, at least in the first few weeks after the attacks?

This will definitely be the case. With a view in particular to the national team games that are taking place at this time, the authorities who are responsible for security will be meeting with each other. Everyone will analyze the current situation and decide whether adjustments are needed to the security measures already in place. This is done in a very professional manner.

You were the head of security for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. What measures did you put in place to ensure security?

For one thing, we set up an outer security corridor around the football stadiums. We also closely coordinated our actions with the German authorities and those of all countries involved, as well as neighboring countries. This sort of coordination is very important. In addition to this, we worked with the police to ensure that all accredited people in the stadiums were checked. We also had AWACS military aircraft in the air to conduct surveillance on the airspace, and had the tickets personalized. Taken together all of these measures added up to a signal to would-be attackers that while a World Cup, a football stadium, might be a high-value target, the chances of getting caught would be very high.

Were there any critical events in terms of security at the 2006 World Cup?

In retrospect there was one situation, the so-called suitcase bombers, who later (after the World Cup) tried to carry out an attack. Fortunately, due to a technical problem they were not successful. Under police questioning one of them admitted that they had hoped to do so during the 2006 World Cup, but had decided against this, because they as terrorists had analyzed the situation.

Despite the deadly attacks that were carried out as Germany played France in Paris last Friday, most of the other games in this international break are going ahead. Is this the right decision?

The decision is absolutely right! That goes for the decision of the French to play in England as well as the German national team hosting the Netherlands in Hanover. Calling them off would amount to giving the terrorists exactly what they want. Of course the authorities will do all they can to ensure the safety of these games. There will certainly be stepped up security, this is a natural reaction. But at the end of the day, we must not allow ourselves to be governed by reflex reactions. We need to remain calm and do our jobs.

Helmut Spahn, 54, is director general of the Doha-based International Centre for Sport Security. Previously he was the head of security at the 2006 World Cup, which was hosted by Germany. The decision by the Belgian authorities to call off the Belgium-Spain friendly was taken after the interview was conducted.

The interview was conducted by Jan-Hendrik Raffler

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