World Cup organizer bristles at security questions
The man in charge of organizing the World Cup in South Africa is
bristling at security questions sparked by violence in Angola,
saying his country should be judged on its own record, not events
more than a four-hour flight away.
Speaking at a crowded news conference Tuesday, Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the World Cup organizing committee, also said South Africa was taking extensive precautions to ensure a safe tournament.
Since suspected separatists ambushed a bus carrying Togolese players arriving in Angola for a continental football tournament that began Sunday, South African officials have been pressed to explain why similar violence can't happen here during the June-July football World Cup, the premier event for the world's most popular sport.
Jordaan said it was unfair and ill-informed to assume that because South Africa and Angola share a continent, they share similar security challenges. He said that would be akin to having questioned Germany, which hosted the 2006 World Cup, about terror attacks in London a year earlier, or proposing that all sporting events in Asia be called off because of the war in Afghanistan.
"We don't apply the same standard to any other country," he said, accusing questioners of applying double standards. "If something happens on the African continent, we cannot condemn the whole continent."
Jordaan said South Africa, which will be the first on the continent to host the football World Cup, has hosted more than 100 major sporting events since 1994 without experiencing violence.
South Africa was welcomed back into international sports after apartheid ended in 1994, and the events it has hosted include the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 1996 African Cup of Nations football tournament, and last year's Confederations Cup and Twenty20 Indian Premier League cricket tournament. The latter was hastily moved to South Africa from India because of security concerns.
"We surely must be judged on the reality, not just on flights of fantasy and imagination," Jordaan said when asked whether South Africa could be targeted by international terrorists. He said South Africa has no separatist movements like the Angolan group suspected in the attack on the Togolese team.
South Africa does, however, have a high crime rate and there are concerns that guns and even explosives - stocked by the mining industry - are too easily available.
The U.S. Embassy and other American offices in South Africa were closed for two days in September because of what the U.S. State Department called "credible" information about a possible threat. U.S. officials have refused to elaborate on the threat.
Britain started requiring visas from South Africans last year, claiming terrorists and criminals were exploiting the availability of stolen or forged South African passports to gain access to other countries. British security and intelligence officials have expressed concern about an increasing risk of Islamic extremists using South Africa as a transit point and venue to plot.
If Jordaan played down the threat of terrorism, he also stressed that preparing for that possibility has been part of planning for years. And he brought a general to the briefing to help make that point. South African police and military forces are coordinating security planning for the World Cup.
"We are more than ready," said Lt. Gen. V.I. Ramlakan, who is the South African security force's chief medical officer but said he spoke for the entire force.
Ramlakan, who has helped prepare a medical emergency response as part of security planning, said broader preparations included sharing information with other governments. South African police and troops have also conducted training simulations of chemical, biological and radiation attacks.
"In our planning, we take every possible eventuality into account, including that of terrorism," Ramlakan said. "It is not an issue of belief. It is an issue of preparedness."