International Events And The Threat Of Terrorism And Crime


For some people, the threat of terrorism and violent crime is always looming over them with fear running at an all-time high. This fear also transfers over to international events which draw in huge amounts of people in a short amount of time, creating an easy target for an attack. The general response from law enforcement is to ban people from entering the country, with security forces being trained in preparation for the possibility of a terrorist attack. Since the beginning of this year, there have been two major international sporting events: The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Prior to the PyeongChang Winter Games, South Korea reportedly banned 36,000 foreigners from entering the country, citing security issues. South Korean forces also conduced terror drills near Olympic sites, and a law enforcement command centre in PyeongChang also monitored security during the Games. Over 60,000 people were employed in the security force.

For the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, more than AU$45 million was spent on security, with 10,000 people employed for this security and an accumulative 78,000 guard hours. To put it into perspective, security outnumbered athletes for the event. A security measure employed for the Gold Coast Games were airport-style scanners upon entry into venues, new laws in Queensland for police to help fight extremism (including power over phones), and anti-extremist pop-up bollards. This was also combined with previous measures, such as intelligence, which has already foiled several terrorist plans.

As the Asian Games approach, there are 100,000 police officers and soldiers stationed to overseeing the event. A hard-line response has already been demonstrated. Thousands of people have already been arrested and hundreds detained to ensure the safety of visitors, according to National Police Chief Tito Karnavian. Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director, Usman Hamid, said the figures are “a clear pattern of unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police… the hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights”.

Killings were at their peak from July 3-12, when eleven people in Jakarta and three people in South Sumatra were shot dead as part of a “public safety” operation in preparation for hosting the Games. The Jakarta killings were justified as a means of addressing the issue of violent crime in the city – there has been a 64% increase in the amount of people killed on the streets as a result of petty crimes.

Amnesty is calling on authorities, as well as sports governing bodies (national and international) to act and ensure human rights violations do not occur during the hosting of the Asian Games. International human rights law states that law enforcement can only use force when absolutely necessary and the force has to be appropriate for the situation. What has happened over the last few months in Indonesia should only be a last resort – not as a precautionary measure.

Responses to the impending threat of terrorism in international events has been mainly through a mass increase in security forces, outnumbering participants in these events. Security issues continue because of the sustained nature of terrorist threats, as targets are placed on certain cities and events.

The security measures employed in PyeongChang and Gold Coast definitely deterred major terrorist attacks, but recent events in Indonesia raises a question. Should police be given that much power over people’s lives just because they appear to be a threat? A “shoot first and ask questions later policy” is not exactly going to stop crime or terrorist threats. We must first look at the motives behind terrorism and crime before shooting people. Terrorist groups like ISIS continue to radicalize people into their cause, proving that they have a cause worth fighting for. But why do people do that? What compels people to join and support terrorism?

General Karnavian however certainly wants to continue the hard-line response to crime that has already begun, saying “In the last month… I have ordered my personnel to finish off all networks of pick-pockets and bag-snatchers. If [criminals] fight back, don’t hesitate. Finish them off.” This response by law enforcement might scare some into not committing crimes, but it will not stop everyone, depending on motivation behind crime.

Instead of killing people, there should be a more peaceful response to threats of terrorism and crime during international events. Physical security can only do so much and in reference to the current situation in Indonesia, shooting people because of petty crimes will not automatically stop people from crime. There are still motives behind crime that must be considered. While security efforts definitely have escalated, terrorists no longer look for major events to draw global interest. Attacks could occur in the lead up to an event, or smaller areas where the event is being held.

A possible solution to the issue of crime and terrorism during large international events is more people on intelligence teams. Knowing about something that might happen in its workings is going to be more effective as it stops an attack before the fact and discovering one plan may lead to others being stopped. With this, there must be coordination between law enforcement agencies. For example, in the five counties of Atlanta, there are 60 law enforcement agencies, not including state and federal agencies, as well as fire response and emergency medical services. These law enforcement agencies must form a solid plan for any possibility of attack, especially when it comes to terrorism.

Other solutions include using the community as a resource, through community resilience and community policing. Resilience through how a community navigates through a terrorist threat, and policing through how a community prevents the spread of terrorist-related ideologies.

One of the next big events are the Paris Olympics in 2024. Paris has already been targeted and all instances claimed by ISIS. Paris is already taking one step in the right direction by planning early, as hundreds of thousands of people – maybe even millions – projected to come into the city. Etienne Thobois, Direction General of the Paris 2024 committee said Paris would install extensive video surveillance systems around sporting venues and athlete housing. Security does cost money, however, and $221 million has already been budgeted.

Despite this, the Paris Olympics are still seven years away, and it is impossible to know what the situation would be like then. France has been under a national state of emergency since the attacks in 2015, and there is no knowing when the next one might happen. The security situation in seven years’ time might be very different, through planning. Intelligence must be set up, the community must be ready, and security must be prepared for any security threat – there is always that inevitable chance of terrorism and crime.

Holly Heng

Holly is a student at UNSW Sydney, currently studying a Bachelor of International Studies/Bachelor of Media (PR & Advertising). She is a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd and avid Netflix watcher.

About Holly Heng

Holly is a student at UNSW Sydney, currently studying a Bachelor of International Studies/Bachelor of Media (PR & Advertising). She is a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd and avid Netflix watcher.