The business of security

Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a taste of the heightened security measures in place.-Pics: PTI

Providing security to celebrities and sportsmen is a global challenge now and the magnitude increases hugely during sporting events. In the sub-continent, the challenge assumes greater proportions, for the threats are one too many. Over to Vijay Lokapally.

A sea of Khaki is what a fan encounters at a sporting event; the bigger the event, the greater would be the presence of policemen, most of them in uniform and some in plainclothes. Security measures on a big scale have now become part and parcel of sports.

Security agencies the world over have come to specialise in policing sporting occasions like the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics, the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. No organising committee can relax when it comes to guarding the lives of the sporting fraternity — the participants and the spectators.

Unfortunate incidents like the assassination of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics are grim reminders of how sportsmen can become easy targets. That massacre of athletes in the Games Village made the world realise the importance of sportsmen safety. The measures have grown strict with time to the extent that there are times when fans prefer following the big events on television.

There have been occasions when matches have been held ‘in camera’ owing to security concerns. There have been attacks on sportsmen too despite a heavy deployment of securitymen. The Lahore incident in March last year when militants struck the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers was followed by the recent incident when a bus carrying Togo’s national football team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola came under fire.

Providing security to celebrities and sportsmen is a global challenge now and the magnitude increases hugely during sporting events. In the sub-continent, the challenge assumes greater proportions, for the threats are one too many.

The shifting of the second edition of the Indian Premier League was primarily because of security concerns with the government making it clear that it did not have the required number of personnel to spare. The IPL this year will obviously be a sort of test event for the World Cup to be held next year. Security, as always, continues to be a major concern.

Jai Mehta, the co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, and Jagmohan Dalmiya, the CAB President, after a meeting on IPL security in Kolkata recently.-

Spectators in the modern era have come to accept the stringent security measures at the venues. Abhishek Kamboj, a young sports lover, does not mind being frisked a hundred times. “You can’t sit at home for fear of life. When sportsmen are performing on the ground, we must go and cheer them. Security measures are fine as long as the policemen are consistent in their duty. It would hardly help if you check the first 100 spectators strictly and not the next 500. I appreciate the security measures because they are for our benefit only.”

But there are some who differ. Seventy-five-year-old G. B. Lal, who first saw a Test match ‘live’ when he was just 15, says, “There is no fun in going to the ground now. The security aspect makes it difficult for people of my age to enjoy a sports event ‘live’. You can’t even carry a bottle of water. I think security is important, but the organisers must ensure that the comforts of the spectators are not compromised with. I am all for strict frisking, but once that is done I must not be harassed inside the venue.”

A similar view came from Vasudevan Nair, a sports enthusiast. “The distance between a sportsman and a fan has grown ever since the security measures were introduced. You hardly get to interact with your sporting heroes because of the security wall between them and us. There is no doubt that security is an important factor, but it has also kept many like me away from the venues.”

The biggest challenge for IPL-3 would be to organise security for the big number of foreign players, since they would represent eight different teams. The players from England, New Zealand and Australia have been engaged with their respective players’ associations on how to go about it, even as the IPL organising committee has assured the best of security cover for them once they arrive for the tournament.

The overwhelming presence of policemen in uniform can be a disturbing sight for a sports fan from overseas, but the Indians have got used to this aspect. IPL-3 would showcase India as a safe place to stage sports events and its success would give the thumbs up to bigger competitions like the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Delhi from October 3 to 14.

Most Indian venues now have the best possible security arrangements with the police doing its best to ensure an incident-free competition. The IPL and the Champions League T20 organisers had employed a South African private security agency for guarding the players even as the local police at all the venues lent their expertise in crowd control and safety. The organisers are confident of meeting the challenges this time too. A successful conduct of the IPL would mean a lot for the coming Commonwealth Games and the cricket World Cup next year.