Clegg Walks Perilous Path in the Shadow of Terrorists

Daily Mail (London), March 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

Clegg Walks Perilous Path in the Shadow of Terrorists


Byline: IAN WOOLDRIDGE

COULD there conceivably be any more enticing a target for fanatical terrorists than an Olympic Games staged in the cradle of democracy?

It says everything about the violent world in which we now live that such an appalling scenario should even be contemplated, but blindly to ignore it with contemptuous bravado would be, to say the least, unwise.

Athens, August 2004: 10,000 athletes, heads of states, prominent statesmen and politicians, at least half a million visitors, a packed local population, 12,000 media representatives and the world's television cameras in situ.

Some powder keg.

As we recall the atrocities of Bali and Madrid with horror, as we hear a senior policeman predict that an attack on Britain is inevitable, as hate-filled, brainwashed religious zealots blow themselves to smithereens in a cause beyond our comprehension, this situation has to be addressed.

My sympathies are with Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, who has to advise his employers on how we should handle this situation.

Clegg is an ex- soldier who, at heart, would share my probably misplaced conviction that you should shove two fingers in the face of a threatening bully. Alas, the world has moved on from such rugby field conventions.

Now they slaughter women, children, 8am commuters without compunction.

Athens and the Olympics would be the ultimate coup in an attack that would plunge the world back into the dark ages.

Heavens, how I would hate to shoulder his responsibility, but so far he has played it absolutely right. Very cautiously, in keeping with the Americans, he has said that the entire British team could be withdrawn from the Olympics if the Greeks cannot guarantee their security.

'I don't envisage that situation occurring,' he added, by way of placating an Athens organising committee who are already way behind with their construction programme and dread having a disaster on their hands.

But how can you guarantee there won't be a terrorist assault?

Despite the millions being spent on security measures, the reality is that you can't. Fanaticism, where fear of death means nothing and suicide is the passport to the afterlife, is invulnerable.

On a smaller scale this has happened to the Olympic Games before. On the early morning of September 5, 1972, a few Arabs easily clambered over a seven-foot wire mesh fence on the edge of the Olympic Village in Munich, burst into the Israeli team quarters, murdered two and took nine hostages.

By early next morning, after a daylong siege, all the hostages were dead, killed in a shootout on Firstenfeldbruck airfield.

Later that morning, with the day's sport postponed, Avery Brundage addressed a memorial service in the Munich Olympic Stadium.

Brundage was the gruff, rough, self-made, immensely-rich American president of the International Olympic Committee, and he declared: 'The Games must go on. We have only the strength of a grand ideal. I am sure the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic movement.' That was 32 years ago. I am sure Brundage would deliver the same defiant proclamation today if he were still alive.

For Simon Clegg the situation is rather different.

He is not confronted by ' a handful of terrorists'. There are those out there who have been trained to wipe us out, and whether or not the Athens Olympics are in the cross-wires of their sights remains to be seen.

But it is a tricky business.

i.wooldridge@dailymail.co.uk

Violence that shames our Olympic bid

THE other afternoon, in broad daylight, a woman friend of mine was walking along a street to collect her car when she was overtaken by two young gentlemen dawdling along on bicycles. …

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