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Security lockdown for Asian Games

Asian Games chiefs said today they had locked down all venues ahead of the opening of the event, as officials pledged measures to guarantee athlete safety.

other Updated: Nov 10, 2010 13:43 IST

Asian Games chiefs said on Wednesday they had locked down all venues ahead of the opening of the event, as officials pledged measures to guarantee athlete safety.

Organisers have mounted a sweeping security operation costing tens of millions of dollars for the Asiad -- the world's biggest sporting event after the Olympic Games --including counter-terrorist and hostage rescue drills.

Today's pledge comes just days after the Ministry of Public Security said it had arrested more than 600 'fugitives' in the southern city, without providing further details.

"The 53 competition venues and 17 independent training venues have been successfully locked down and they are open," Xu Ruisheng, deputy secretary general of Games organising committee GAGOC, told reporters.

"Currently our security measures have been laid out based on the realities of the venues and we will provide the utmost degree of security," he said.

He said he was confident in the measures taken to safeguard the Games, which start on Friday, but would not be drawn on any specific threats.

When asked whether special plans were in place for events involving competition between Japanese and Chinese athletes in light of recent tensions between the two nations, he said security would be tailored to each event.

"We will make several preparations based on the exact situation in venues and facilities. We will prepare security measures so as to guarantee" a safe environment for competition, Xu added.

In a security operation that the China Daily has put at 29 million dollars, police have stepped up checkpoints in and around the city, increased disease monitoring and cracked down on arms possession.

China wants to avoid any repeat of events seen in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, including the fatal stabbing of a US Olympic coach's relative by a Chinese man and deadly attacks in the west blamed on Muslim militants.

"We are fully aware of the threats from outside the country and also the risks within the city or within the territory. We have made great efforts to make our city safe, to make our Games safe," Gu Shiyang, vice secretary general of GAGOC, previously told AFP.

More than 10,000 athletes from 45 nations and regions will be competing in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province which sits in the Pearl River Delta, the hub of China's huge export-oriented "workshop of the world".

Police have identified violent crime, including cross-border gun and drug trafficking with neighbouring Hong Kong and Macau, as priorities, according to state media.

Public security authorities have set up a "security firewall" around the city with 132 checkpoints, Xinhua news agency said. Hundreds of thousands of security guards and volunteers will help patrol the Games and there are hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras in place, according to state media.

To avoid the ethnic unrest violence that erupted ahead of the Beijing Olympics in Xinjiang and Tibet, an elite counter-terrorism unit -- "Lightning Commando" -- has been set up for the Games, the China Daily said. Police have also held special hostage rescue drills, including an exercise simulating the hijacking of a bus of athletes by armed gunmen in the Asian Games Village, the paper said.

Police had so far searched more than one million vehicles and boats and three million people entering Guangzhou as security was tightened ahead of the Games, the Ministry of Public Security said.