CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 21, 2016 – Just weeks before the Olympic Games in Rio are set to start, there are new concerns about terrorism.
Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Games, is ramping up security after the first public declaration of terror in South America came earlier this week.
The terror threat was not unexpected. Over the last several years, large gatherings of people have become targets for terrorists. Even the threat of terror is effective, in terms of costs for security, lack of attendance and/or apprehension among competitors, especially those representing high profile countries that are possible targets.
Brazil is already dealing with problems from some athletes who are concerned about the chance of contracting the Zika virus. Given the abundance of recent terror attacks throughout the world, terrorism is perhaps an even greater worry.
Already 2016 has been an exceptionally deadly year in France, and South American links to ISIS have made this point: “If the French police cannot stop attacks on its territory, training given to the Brazilian police will not do anything.”
It’s a sobering thought.
Perhaps more frightening is the seemingly “after-the-fact” aspect of the attack in Nice, France during Bastille Day when French citizens thought they had weathered the terrorist storm following the European soccer tournament. Once again, the element of surprise was a key to the success of the frenzy that ensued.
Just last week, while investigating the attacks in Paris, law enforcement officials uncovered and halted a plot by terrorists against the French Olympic team.
In addition, reports over the weekend came out that four applications by people with known terrorist links had been denied credentials for the games.
This is not to say the games of Rio will be unsafe, but it does demonstrate how security issues have increased dramatically whenever masses of people converge for an event or events, particularly if they have international representation.
Terrorists have become adept at taking advantage of soft targets in places that are not the primary focus of attention. In fact it is a strategy that has devastating consequences because it draws attention to the idea that terror can occur in any place at any time.
Most obvious is the unforgettable precedent for terrorist activity at the Olympics as witnessed by the 1972 games in Munich, where 11 members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and killed by a Palestinian group known as Black September.
Terror as we know it today was certainly not as sophisticated or anticipated more than 40-years ago. If anything the threats have grown over the decades, and the awareness of the potential for creating a statement on a televised global scale is an enticing motivator for those with extremist goals. Add in the suicidal dedication of the perpetrators and the problem is magnified immensely.
Security services in Brazil have issued assurances that no threat to the games has yet been identified. Such claims are insignificant however when there is enhanced apprehension from the recent attack in Nice, which was also an “under-the-radar” incident.
So-called “lone wolf” operatives work in close coordination with jihadist groups to target the complacency of the West. With western leaders telling citizens to go about their daily routines but to exercise vigilance while our leaders refuse to identify Islamic extremism for what it really is, the tension among spectators as well as participants is a major factor to consider.
Despite denials by President Barack Obama, it is guaranteed that if a terrorist attack takes place in Brazil it will be carried out by extremists who support an Islamic ideology. That much is a given and everybody knows it, regardless of how often Mr. Obama repeats the phrase “ISIS is not Islam.”
With the statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world, the games of Rio de Janeiro should be a celebration of athletic skill for all the world to enjoy.
Instead, a small army of 22,000 troops has gathered to assist in final preparations and to provide security throughout the two weeks of competition.
Soon the world will again hold its collective breath for 14 days as Brazil faces the challenges of overcoming international terrorism and mosquitoes.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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