Knowing who is entering the country is key to keeping an event as big as the football World Cup safe, the head of security at Fifa has said.
Chris Eaton, whose job involves coordinating with various security agencies and putting in place foolproof measures to prevent any untoward incident from happening at Fifa-affiliated football tournaments, was speaking at a panel discussion on the “security challenges facing the Qatar 2022 World Cup” at the Aspire4Sport conference in Doha yesterday.
“It is absolutely necessary for Qatar to have as much information as possible about fans and ticket-holders entering the country,” Eaton said.
“Tough border controls are therefore necessary, and coordination with the Interpol and other agencies to keep out undesired elements is important,” Eaton, an Australian detective, who quit his post as Interpol’s director of operations earlier this year to take up the Fifa job, told the panel.
He cited the case of Brazilian runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who was attacked by a defrocked Irish priest at the 2004 Olympics in Athens while he was leading the marathon at the 35-kilometre stage.
As the former priest grappled with de Lima, the runner lost valuable seconds, and the gold medal with it.
Eventually he managed to win the bronze, although he had the consolation of winning the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship awarded by the International Olympic Committee.
The defrocked priest, Cornelius Horan, had a history of creating trouble at sports events and a year earlier had disrupted the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone by running onto the track.
“Had there been better coordination between the organisers and the participating countries the priest would not have been allowed into Greece for the Olympics, but this was not the case,” said Eaton.
However, the Australian added that security should be arranged in such a way that fans are not prevented from having fun.
“The party atmosphere of a football World Cup should not be spoiled because of the security restrictions.
“That is why Fifa emphasises the need for ‘high capability, no visibility’ when it comes to the security apparatus.”
Eaton added that the stadium designs should always take into account safety and security considerations, saying this aspect was often neglected. “The security operations command centre should be always located high in the stadium to ensure a 360 degree visibility. I have seen stadium designs with the command centre located in the basement, which serves little purpose.”
Rick Parry, advisory board member at the Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) and former Liverpool CEO, said training tens of thousands of volunteers would be a challenge for the organisers because of Qatar’s small population.
Interpol president Boon Hui Khoo, who also took part in the discussion, suggested Qatar should consider volunteers from neighbouring countries.
Khoo, a former Singapore police commissioner, added his country would not have had much of a problem recruiting security personnel because all male Singaporeans have to compulsorily enroll in the military for two years as ‘full time national servicemen’.
When they complete the term they are then designated as operationally-ready national serviceman and considered the equivalent of reservists of other militaries.
Khoo said had Singapore been hosting the World Cup, these reservists would be called for service.
“But it’s different here in Qatar. Maybe they should look at hiring people from the GCC countries.”
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