Security and safety from the athletes' perspective

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The ICSS asked Annimari Korte, a Finnish international 100m hurdler, to canvas athletes’ opinions of security, safety and integrity at major events, how they were affected in training and competition, and their views of security at the London 2012 Olympics. She spoke to five athletes who won medals on the track during those Games, including twice Olympic sprint triple-gold-medallist Usain Bolt

 

When I asked Usain Bolt if he had ever had any issues with security at major sports events, he replied, almost surprised: “I have never had any problems anywhere, have you?” 

Security at London 2012 was “top notch”, according to the Jamaican. “They even searched through all the cars coming in, and cars took you into the village and everywhere you needed to go. I had no problems. The security was good,” commented Bolt. Security levels remained strict regardless of the athlete, even for the fastest man ever; as Bolt recalled, he wasn’t even allowed to take his own jump rope through the security check.

As one of the biggest stars in athletics, it may be thought that Bolt’s personal security is a priority to organisers and that others may not get quite so much security attention, but the athletes to whom I spoke shared Bolt’s relaxed and positive view of security arrangements at London 2012.

After Kirani James’s victory in the men’s 400m final, thousands turned out to welcome the 20-year-old Grenadian back to his home country. As the only non-US athlete to run 400m in under 44 seconds, and Grenada’s first-ever Olympic medallist, the whole country went crazy about him – a stadium was named after him, he was appointed a tourist ambassador, and his image now adorns Grenadian stamps and official merchandise.     

But security and safety issues lie very much in the background for James. “It has affected me to some extent, just knowing that you are in a safe environment and don’t have to be looking over your shoulder all the time. Safety in Grenada and in Alabama [where James is training and studying toward his bachelor’s degree] has always been good.” He thinks that some athletes need to feel secure in order to perform at their best, but not all even think about security. “While I think to some extent, or for some athletes, they need to [feel secure], others would care less. I also think the organisers of the meets I’ve been to so far have done a great job in making sportspersons feel secure.”

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