The specifics of one of the largest security operations in Olympics history remain closely guarded, according to a report in the Washington Post. But the government appears to be going to extraordinary lengths to control the two-week event, according to the newspaper.
For instance, more than 600,000 "security volunteers," including retirees, guards and students, have been enlisted, in addition to the 90,000 police and thousands of military and border-control personnel who will be deployed, the Post says, citing a spokesman for the Public Security Ministry.
China has not detailed the exact costs of its security operations, according to the newspaper report, but state media reports last year carried early estimates of about $300 million, a fraction of the $1.8 billion spent in Athens in 2004, the first Summer Olympics held after Sept. 11, 2001.
In spite of China's efforts, there is still always a risk that the Games themselves or one of the athletic events could be cancelled or suspended if something does go wrong. It doesn't happen often, but it has happened.
In 1972, for instance, the games were suspended for a day after a massacre at the Summer Games in Munich, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by Black September, a Palestinian group with ties to Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization.
By the end of the ordeal, the terrorist group had killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer.
Other games have been disrupted over the years but have not been cancelled, even though there were some tense moments.
In 1980, 62 countries and regions participated in a U.S.-led boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow.
More recently, a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, which had been designed as the "town square" of the 1996 Summer Olympics. One woman was killed when a nail struck her in the head. The bomb wounded 111 others. A Turkish cameraman died from a heart attack while running to cover the blast.
In spite of the incident, the games continued as planned.
PATRICIA VOWINKEL lives in New Jersey.
July 1, 2008
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