South Africa has been preparing to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup since 2004. Given the high profile nature of the international, month-long series and the potential volatility of the region, maintaining security at an event of this magnitude is simply an immense undertaking. The security efforts will have cost hundreds of millions of dollars and years to prepare, but the fact is South Africa, like the countries before it that have hosted monumental events on the global stage, will be among the safest places on earth once the matches begin on June 11.
A recent report by Grail Research cites that security is a major concern of the public. The South African government, who is leading the security efforts, has taken numerous steps to increase security and has actually received international acclaim for its efforts. Hopefully not coincidentally, over the past year the percentage of the public that is negatively concerned about security has decreased, according Grail’s report.
The matches will take place in ten stadiums in nine cities across South Africa, posing a myriad of logistical and communication challenges in an area already noted for high crime rates. Stadium seating capacities range between 30,000 and 94,700. With emotions riding high as fans cheer on their country, the South African government, in cooperation with private security firms, is basically charged with the daunting task of securing the equivalent of 48 separate Super Bowls.
Technology will certainly aid the efforts as many security and technology vendors will donate their latest and greatest solutions to be showcased on the world stage. High definition video monitoring and analytics will be a huge help as “smart video” systems can monitor high traffic areas, identify faces and even detect packages dropped and left behind.
In short, one of the keys to maintaining safety at such large scale events is controlling access and best way to do this to have “levels” of security.
The general public will be relegated to specific areas. Even fewer will have access to levels/places where players gather as well as corporate VIP hospitality stations and tents. Specially coded and colored identification badges will be used to identify folks as having the proper permissions to be in certain areas. Even costumed mascots will be heavily scrutinized by security as they make their way through the public areas and onto the fields, many even having dedicated security “escorts” to make sure that the right person is in the right costume at all times. Access control technology vendors will provide advanced solutions in hopes of proving their wares and generating sales down the road. Uniformed guards and police will also be heavily involved, making communications between the two vital.
Soccer hooligans are another major worry. Passionate and patriotic fans can become rowdy and unmanageable, regardless if their country wins or loses, and rioting after matches is a concern. Uniformed police has been increasing their visible presence throughout the country as fans and teams begin to arrive from all over the world. At each match, there will certainly be a formidable showing by the police and private security. Just as impressive as the amount of visible security will be the presence attendees won’t see. Undercover agents will be deployed everywhere, patrolling for suspicious activities and on constant lookout for individuals and groups who may have motives to disrupt the World Cup.
The sheer volume of extra people in the country will put stress on the infrastructure and efforts to ensure critical and emergency services are functioning. Fans will be sightseeing, spending money in restaurants and bars, which naturally poses a huge liability. A visible police presence will do plenty to deter crime and out-of-hand celebrations, but there will still be plenty of problems for the police to combat with so many visitors.
Ticket sales is also an area that will require attention. With every event either sold out or pretty close to capacity, tickets will be in the highest demand on the secondhand and black markets. Ticket counterfeiting attempts will run rampant and the South African government is doing everything it can to curb scalping and thwart counterfeiting.
Despite the extensive measures being taken by South Africa to prepare for the World Cup and make it fun and safe for all, those attending should still take caution. Fans should be mindful of the cities to which they are traveling and of any threats that may exist. As with any major metropolitan area, local and petty crime will run rampant as pickpockets and thieves try to take advantage of unsuspecting tourist. None the less, the government and the agencies with which they are partnering, have taken every necessary step to ensure that the matches will be held under the safest and most secure environment possible, for the players and fans alike.