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INSIDE TRACK: 'Friendly games' cannot ignore global terror threat

Over the last few days Russia launched one of the biggest security operations in Olympic history, as the country gears up for the Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The host city sits in something of a nasty neighbourhood with the threat of Islamic inspired terrorism emanating from the North Caucasus region. While the Sochi Olympics are an obvious security concern, all large-scale sporting events are major challenges for counter-terrorist planners.

This year security officials will have their work cut out in Brazil which hosts the World Cup and, of course, here in Scotland as Glasgow becomes the venue for the Commonwealth Games.

At first glance most people would not think of Glasgow and the Commonwealth Games as a likely target. Putting aside the obvious advantages that any large-scale gathering provides for terrorists intent on causing death and destruction, Glasgow is not Sochi. Scotland's largest city does not sit in the kind of restive geopolitical neighbourhood that includes the likes of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Security planners, however, cannot afford to think this way. As the world has come to realise - especially over the last few decades - terrorism can be homegrown or transnational. Let's not forget that one of the two young Chechen immigrants who carried out the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon in the United States last year drew inspiration from militants in the distant North Caucasus. Attending Glasgow's Commonwealth Games will be national teams representing countries that find themselves on the frontline of the fight against Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Many like Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan are themselves frequent targets of Islamic extremist terrorist strikes. In these three countries alone off-shoots of al Qaeda are active in the shape of al Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Pakistan Taliban. It was al Shabaab remember that struck at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in retribution it claimed for the Kenyan military's deployment in Somalia.

Uganda, another of the Commonwealth nations, has also been embroiled in the fight against Islamist terror both in Somalia and in providing bases and logistical support for the US and other foreign counter-terrorist operations in East Africa.

In the eyes of global jihadists all this makes the citizens, representatives and institutions of such nations legitimate targets. Last year the security budget for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games more than trebled to £90 million. For the past three years a research project funded by the European Commission has seen a collaboration of several Scottish universities in the shape of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research examine the security issues faced by the Glasgow 2014 Games. Over the course of the event too a massive police, security and stewarding operation will take place. Most likely all will go well and Glasgow and Scotland will rise to the challenge of hosting the "friendly games." But it pays to be prepared.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

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