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Are athletes an easier target for attack?

January 11th, 2010
12:12 PM ET

Global sporting events have long been prime targets of attack, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when a group of rebels struck members of the Togo national football team over the weekend leaving three people dead.

Togo striker Thomas Dossevi said rebels opened fire on the team bus with AK-47 assault rifles.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/11/1101_blog_art.jpg caption ="Sporting events have become prime targets for terrorists."]

The gunfire killed the team’s assistant coach, its communication officer and the bus driver. At least seven others were wounded, including goal keeper Kodjovi Obilale, who remained in intensive care.

Togo was in Angola for the African Cup of Nations football tournament – one of the world’s biggest.

As Angolan officials try to calm safety concerns, many sporting professionals and organizers are revisiting the question of how much security is necessary during large tournaments and sporting events.

During the 1972 Munich Olympics, Palestinian terrorists captured and killed 11 members of the Israeli team.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, two people were killed and 120 injured when Eric Rudolph detonated a bomb.

In March 2009, militants targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore, killing seven people.

Organizers of large sporting events spend hundreds of millions of dollars in security measures, but many groups still plan and plot for attacks that target athletes, coaches and members of the public.

This year, there are several large sporting events including the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the World Cup in South Africa and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi that could test both the resolve of organizers and terrorist groups.

We'd like to know what you think.

Do you think groups are increasingly targeting athletes for attack? Why have sporting events become targets? Are you worried that something could happen at this year's Olympics, World Cup or Commonwealth Games? Are countries like South Africa and India as well prepared as Canada?

Please leave your comments below.

Filed under:  General
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Mike Jameson

    Great question – I really think that terrorists target athletes more because they're more high profile and they def get more news than if they just killed one random person. They carry much more news value and they're just higher targets. Athletes have and always been be big targets.

    January 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  2. HaganaH

    You can never be sure about at attack as indicated by the recent event of the CIA double agent. I do feel however that those who are hired to manage security at large scaled sporting events are doing everything in their capacity to minimize public threat.

    I believe that athletes are targeted for a couple reasons.
    1. Typically athletes are not trained in self defense or counter terrorism which presents them as a wounded rabbit as the hawk swoops in for it's catch.
    2. If the terrorists do complete their objective, (whatever it is), it will surely gain more exposure to the international media.

    January 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  3. Bryant

    They are great targets in the fact that they are some of the highest profile people with little or no security. Most have a bodyguard which is good if someone were to see them in public and wanted to beat them up but doesen't do a lot of good when attacked by gunfire. You can get really close to someone without being noticed, and one peoson could handel the job most of the time. So for a group to attack if would be no problem at all.

    January 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  4. arvind pathak

    Athletes by virtue of their job are exposed to public arenas where they become easy targets and make big news which is aimed at by terrorist. Since they represent a nation terrorist attack on them is an attack on the nationand its internal or foreign policy.

    January 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  5. arvind pathak

    athletes by virtue of their job are exposed to public arenas where they become easy targets and make big news which is aimed at by terrorist.since they represent a nation terrorist attack on them is an attack on the nationand it's internal or foreign policy,i am worried that upcoming future events may have some incidents specially with terror factories producing suicide bombers as young as 6-7yrplusat behest of religious bigots and fanatic fundamentalist in the poor ,religion-torn states in africa,asia.canada by virtue of well identified citizenery has an easiar task of security cover compared to india and south africa with varied diaspora and comparatively porous borders.

    January 11, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  6. Wayne

    Professional Athletes are certianly soft targets. Look at the Sri Lankan Cricket team that was attacked while in their team bus on the way to a Cricket Championship and now the Togolese team on the way to the African Cup of Nations. Perhaps there needs to be an evaluation for the transportation of Professional Athletes.

    January 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  7. Shawn

    Here in the states our athletes are held accountable when they are robbed. For example a football player was killed here when guys broke into his home and shot him. The incident was presented by our mainstream media as his past life catching up with him, when in fact his brother-in-law setup the robbery. Case two, another footballer was shot and killed when taking out his trash in his gated private development. The news suggested that maybe his large amount of jewelry made him an easy target. @Bryant, that is an excellent point! Which is why some American athletes carry firearm, but as you can see by Gilbert suspension they cant protect themselves this way either......

    January 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  8. Ade Romeo

    D Togolse are right 4 d decise them hav taken b'cos theres no wastin any time

    January 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  9. Tebogo Khaas

    There is nothing new with these types of opportunistic attacks. Terrorist groups will always target high-profile events iot draw attention to their causes. As shown by incidents such as those in Munich (1972), Atlanta (2006), Lahore (2009) and now Cabinda in Angola, no sporting event or country will ever be completely safe or immune from such opportunism. South Africa will host a safe and successful 2010 FIFA World Cup event. However, if reports that CAF president Issa Hayatou was warned prior to the CAF attack and he ignored these warmings from FLEC-PM, then he must be held personally accountable for any loss of life and injuries that took place in Angola. The organisers of the event must also be held accountable.

    January 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  10. David

    Athletes make the news every single day, so just because of that they are already going to be talked about if an attack is made against them. And at events like the Olympics or football tournaments, there can never be enough security to ensure their safety. These terrorists know that, and by targeting athletes they will get themselves into the news which is their ultimate goal. to show their power and belief.

    January 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  11. George

    It comes down to such attacks being undiscriminating. Its not just the athletes put at risk but everyone and everything that is involved. That's why international sporting events no matter what the scale are targeted, they are the best opportunity to establish that.

    January 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  12. Marc

    Definately athletes are the best targets for these terrorist because, they know that it's the only way they can be heard. And also attention would be given to them thereby creating room for dialouge. The recent attack upon the togolese national football team is going to send shiveres down the spine of the participating countries in the forth coming world cup, and it should also serve as a clear warning to the organizers of the tournament for them to beef up there security system to prevent a reoccurance of such an unpleasant incident

    January 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  13. Susan Eklöw

    Journey from Togo to Angola by Bus:
    From Togo to Angola, you cross through the following countries: Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Cabinda, Democratic Republic of Congo, then Angola. Just imagine that the Togolese team had to make this journey, before the tournament.

    Whom are we to blame for the tragedy of the Togolese team? Do the organisers have any responsibility? Does the government of Togo acknowledge failure in the way it treated its players? This is a very BIG shame for the African Cup of Nations organisers and the Togo government.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  14. Gaurav Agrawal

    At a time when Af-Pak Policy is renewed, america must try to understand that they are not fighting terrorist or hijbs but they are actually fighting remains of the Md. Ghaznavi who invaded India 17 times. To them society, education, development doesnot mean any thing. They were warlords and wil remain warlords.
    As it started with Russia, it will end up swallowing China after America is finnished.

    January 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  15. Kcalvin

    I think it is so easy to find out what is the athletes doing & where they are going, so , atheltes being an easier target for attack,is in a normal logic.

    January 15, 2010 at 5:34 am | Reply

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