Leaders: We must remain vigilant to protect Olympic ideal
ARE security precautions for the London Olympics over the top? Surely missiles on the rooftops of houses, and RAF Typhoons ready to scramble in order to blow hijacked airliners out of the sky, are all a little too James Bond.
Or perhaps more Johnny English, when the firm hired to provide private security staff is so incompetent it can’t recruit enough employees despite an unemployment rate in London of one in ten.
Yet think back to the Munich games in September 1972. In the run up, the German organisers asked the famous psychologist Georg Sieber to imagine – hypothetically - how terrorists might disrupt the events. Sieber correctly forecast how armed Palestinian militants could by invading the Olympic Village. The Games organisers decided to take no preventative action, as “excessive” security measures would detract from their desire to make Munich 1972 the “Carefree Games”.
As a result of that miscalculation, members of Black September were able to storm the Olympic Village, resulting in the deaths of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches, a police officer and – in a final shoot out – five Palestinians.
Nor should we forget the bombing of the Centenial Olympic Park, during the 1996 Atlanta Games, in which two people died and 111 were injured. Or the fact that the London bombings in 2005, which murdered 52 people, took place the day after the city was awarded the 2012 Games.
It is a tragic fact of 21st century life that any major public event is a potential target. The London Olympics, with a global TV audience of 4 billion, 8 million spectators, and 10,000 athletes – is a target like no other. Last week, Metropolitan police arrested 14 people in anti-terror operations, including the four detained close to Olympic Park. Some may prove to be innocent, but it is preferable to take precautions rather than risk another Munich.
Of course, there has to be a test of proportionality in security operations, not to mention respect for civil liberties. Some £1.5 billion is being spent on security arrangements for London. That is 50 per cent more than for the Athens Games of 2004. On the other hand, London is a more likely target. The rooftop missiles may have more to do with deterrence than reality – as alleged by disgruntled local residents - but deterrence is no bad thing.
It is a serious cause for concern that 3,500 troops, many newly returned from Afghanistan, have been drafted in at the last minute to bolster Olympic security, because of the failure to recruit civilian staff. But better that than have too few staff available and who better to have than soldiers?
Pierre De Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, believed the Games would “little by little dissipate the ignorance in which people live with respect to others, an ignorance which breeds hate”.
It’s still a great ideal. But until it is achieved, we need to be vigilant – and safe.
It’s time for the SFL to pull together
THE decision by Charles Green, Rangers chief executive, not to challenge the decision of the Scottish Football League (SFL) to place the newco club in Division Three, is both pragmatic and magnanimous. In the present unwished for circumstances, whatever decision the SFL came to was bound to have drawbacks for football in Scotland. Better then to draw a line and get on with the game.
Difficult as it will be for some Rangers fans to contemplate their club in the bottom tier of the Scottish league, the outcome preserves the unity of Scottish football. One much-touted alternative, the creation of an SPL2 consisting of invited clubs including Rangers, would have destroyed that unity. The resulting in-fighting and legal squabbles would have benefited no one.
Some will be sore at the SFL vote, but club chairmen were simply applying the existing rules, as was their right.
What is important is that they admitted Rangers as a full SFL member and without financial sanctions.
To have done otherwise would have been petty and self-defeating, given the strength of the Rangers brand, even in its financial difficulties. There remains the thorny question of what Ranger’s relegation will do to the already uncertain finances of Scottish football. Rather than ignore the problem, or blame Rangers, now might be the time to take a longer, cooler look at the future of Scottish football – organisationally, financially and professionally.
A decade ago, after being beaten by Brazil in the World Cup final, Germany brought its football teams together to plan
That moment has arrived in Scotland.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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