Security tops Euro 2008's list
Organisers of Euro 2008 are taking supposed terror threats from Al-Qaeda and Swiss football fans seriously.22 May 2008
HAMBURG - A supposed terror threat from Al-Qaeda and Swiss football fans going on the rampage three times within a month have focused the minds of the security forces in Switzerland and Austria ahead of the upcoming Euro 2008 tournament.
The call by Al-Qaeda on so-called jihad forums is being taken seriously.
"We are on alert and we are following these jihad forums very closely," said an official.
"It is through these that (Osama) Bin Laden's agents awaken dormant cells. The situation is serious even if it is frustrated people hiding behind these sites."
Euro 2008 kicks off on 7 June in the Swiss city of Basle. Millions of football fans are expected to travel to the games shared between eight venues in Switzerland and four in Austria for what is one of the world's biggest international sporting events.
However, it is domestic football fans who are causing immediate concern after supporters from Swiss side FC Gallen became the latest to go on the rampage after their club lost 2-0 to Bellinzona.
Around 60 people were arrested during the disturbances while seven police and security personnel suffered minor injuries.
Even though this was the third time in a month that violence had broken out a Swiss league match, officials from both Austria and Switzerland remain confident that Euro can pass off peacefully and in a carnival atmosphere.
To achieve this, security needs to be discreet yet effective for the 31 football matches taking place between June 7 and 29 and as seven other countries share borders with the two Alpine nations, close international cooperation is essential.
As a result, three conferences were scheduled with neighbouring states and transit countries, the first taking place in Vienna in 2006 and the third in March of this year, also in the Austrian capital.
The security operation surrounding the tournament will see Switzerland deploy around 15,000 soldiers to support 16,200 police at the country's four Euro 2008 venues - Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich.
The match venues in Austria are Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna. Austria will have 27,000 police officers on duty across the country with up to 3,000 police officers in action in Vienna alone on the individual match days. A holiday ban is also in place.
The Austrian and Swiss security forces will be supported by 2,500 foreign police. Germany are sending the vast bulk with 1,700, France 750, Croatia will provide 31, Poland 25, Sweden 15, Greece 12 and Russia and Spain 11 each.
Approximately 1,000 security stewards will be on duty during each match. As well as ensuring the security of the stadium, the trained stewards will be responsible for monitoring the entrance gates to the fan zone, the public viewing areas and the teams' training grounds and team quarters.
Participating countries have been asked to impose travel bans on known troublemakers as Austria, a member of the Schengen area, will carry out only a limited monitoring of its borders during the event.
Over 1 million tickets have been made available for the tournament while around 2 million foreign visitors and 6 million fans in total are expected. Another 4.8 billion people will follow the event's progress on television.
[dpa / Expatica]