Sport Events Increasingly Attractive Targets for Terrorists
No sport can consider itself immune from terrorism. The sight of masked gunmen opening fire on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in the Pakistan city of Lahore provides such evidence.
The audacious manner the terrorists carried out the attacks is truly harrowing. Echoes of the November Mumbai attacks are plain for all to see.
To many people the attacks may come as no surprise at all. The sub-continent is an area not short on conflicts. Sri Lanka has a long history of civil war dating back to 1983 and India and Pakistan are constantly contesting the region of Kashmir. The cultural significance of cricket in these regions makes the sport a prime target.
Terrorism and cricket have collided before. In 2002 the New Zealand cricket team narrowly avoided a bomb blast outside their Karachi hotel.
The harsh reality is sporting events have always been, and in the future even more so will be, targets for terrorist groups.
The Munich Massacre of 1972 saw 11 Israeli Olympic team members kidnapped and murdered by a Palestinian militant group. In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Games a US citizen detonated a bomb killing two and injuring hundreds.
Terrorism and sport have a history but still some questions need to be answered.
What makes sport such an attractive target? Why is the threat of terrorist attacks on sporting events likely to increase? What can be done to stem the threat?
Motives of terrorist organisations are to get maximum exposure for their efforts, sending strong messages to the world. Sporting coverage may be the ideal platform. A fitting analogy can explain why.
On September 11th, 2001 spectacular scenes resembled more of an “Independence Day-esque” Hollywood blockbuster than a real life experience. Two of the foundations that western society was built on came crashing down in a staggered nature for worldwide audiences to witness.
The real time, mass communicated, graphic coverage via the TV network giants amplified the terror. At these moments time simply stands still. Everybody remembers where they were when the second plane hit the World Trade Centre.
The attacks in Lahore are dwarfed in scale by 9/11. Nevertheless the effects are the same. Parallels can very easily be drawn.
Cricketers are major stars competing on the world stage via mass TV networks to captured audiences in their millions. It is easy to see why terrorists want to share this stage and make it their own.
No cricketers were killed but the perpetrators will be pleased with the sensational global headlines
This goes further than cricket. Modern media sporting coverage gives any terrorist group the exposure they seek.
The Lahore attacks will inspire terrorist groups to commit similar acts in the future.
Addressing this issue with appropriate security measures should be at the forefront of every sporting institution’s agenda – be it the Cricket World Cup in 2011 or the Olympic Games in London 2012.
The security in Pakistan was unacceptable. The Pakistan Cricket Board has paid the ultimate price, losing the right to jointly host the 2011 Cricket World Cup and making international sport in Pakistan a thing of the past for the foreseeable future.
The challenge facing other sporting institutions to address security concerns is tough. Extra costs to secure the safety of athletes must be taken. Sports stars need safe environments to perform to the best of their abilities.
Sport has a unique ability to unite those that are otherwise divided. Sporting institutions all around the world must send a firm message in response to those who choose terrorism.
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