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South Africa safer, say security experts

sports Updated: Jan 12, 2010 00:09 IST

Years of security planning for the World Cup in South Africa mean there is little chance of a surprise attack similar to the one on Togo's soccer team at the African championship in Angola, police and analysts say.

The roadside ambush in a restive region, which killed two of Togo's soccer delegation, inevitably brought questions over security at the world's biggest single-sport event, on a continent all too often tarnished by images of chaos.

But police, organisers and security experts said that, while any major sporting event could attract publicity-seeking action by extremists, South Africa and Angola were totally different.

“South Africa have a very effective security apparatus, probably the most effective in southern Africa,” said Sajjan Gohel, international security director of a London think tank, the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

“But all it requires is one particular terrorist event that could create huge disruption to the tournament itself ... It would be totally naive to assume South Africa would be either immune or exempt from it.”

Partly because such dangers are taken so seriously, security planning began in 2004. Police said the incident that marred the African Cup of Nations in Angola was no reason to review plans. “We have got our plans in place, both pro-active and reactive plans,” said Senior Superintendent Vishnu Naidoo, the national police spokesman for the World Cup.

South Africa have hosted other major sporting events successfully, including the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and the Rugby World Cup in 1995. At least 13 billion rand ($1.8 billion) has been spent on new stadiums and infrastructure for the month-long World Cup, which begins on June 11.

The security budget has not been made public but 52,000 officers will be on duty and police stations in high crime areas will be reinforced.

South Africa do not suffer from political violence like Angola's Cabinda enclave, where separatists who have been fighting a low-level war for three decades opened fire on the Togolese team bus.