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World Cup Security Gives Terror Priority

DW staff (nda)October 22, 2005

Hooliganism has long been the bane of those organizing security for the 2006 World Cup but Germany's police union chief has turned the attention to the terror threat on such an "attractive" target.

The threat of terrorism at the World Cup is being taken very seriouslyImage: AP

While most of the attention regarding security for the 2006 World Cup has been geared to keeping rival sets of hooligans apart, Germany's police union chief said last week that the global soccer spectacle faces a much larger threat than fans fighting in the streets -- the possibility of the World Cup being a target of terrorists

"Next year we will have over three million visitors, among them scores of well-known public personalities from all over the world," Konrad Freiberg said at a police security forum in Gelsenkirchen, one of the 12 host cities at the tournament. "They will spend long periods of time at previously known places. That makes this big event an attractive target for terrorists."

The World Cup will attract politicians, royalty and celebrities from around the world and will be broadcast globally, making it an extremely high-profile target for terrorist groups wanting to attack international figures and have their atrocities publicized around the world.

No compromises or reductions in police

Polizei im Stadion
A large police presence will be in evidence in GermanyImage: AP

Freiberg was adamant that there should be no compromises made in securing Germany’s World Cup and that it would irresponsible to cut police numbers before the event.

Walter Gagg, FIFA's director of stadiums and security, has made assurances that the security focus now is as much about preventing terrorism as hooliganism. Gagg said on Monday: "We know that Germany will be totally different than Japan and Korea in 2002 - it has open borders with several countries, which means we have to be more aware about hooliganism and other security threats."

"We have to be very careful. While we don't want to consider every spectator a potential terrorist - at the same time we are aware it could be a wonderful platform for terrorists."

Fan violence more likely in cities

Meanwhile, Freiberg added that with ticketless fans loitering in host cities and giant TV screens in public places providing sets of supporters with places to mingle, Germany’s city centers will be under greater threat of violence than any of the stadiums in which the games will be played.

Huge screens in cities will attract rival fans to open spacesImage: TCF GmbH

"For each England game alone 25,000 fans without tickets will be expected," Freiberg said. "We've made the stadiums safe but a few kilometers away, rival fans will be able to meet unhindered in front of large TV screens."

"There will be incalculable security risks at these freely accessible places."

TV rights deal puts screens on the streets

Due to an agreement signed by the World Cup Organizing Committee and the company selling TV rights for the tournament, all the matches can be shown on giant screens in towns and cities across Germany.

Vorbereitungen auf die Spiele
Riot police officers, wearing full riot gear, charge their fellow officers portraying hooligans during a security drillImage: AP

Jürgen Mathies, leader of the police project group for the tournament, echoed Konrad Freiberg’s fears that urban centers away from the stadiums would be provide the biggest security concerns.

"The stadiums are secure," he said. "But the city centers could become a problem, particularly where public viewing areas are set up."