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Making the Games safe and secure

Published:Wednesday | May 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Columnist

Reports about new, sophisticated terrorist bombs are very unsettling and offer a dispirited reminder of the 9/11 attacks in America, even as we contemplate the Summer Olympics in London, England, in a few months' time.

Not only that, we are now approaching the busiest air travel season of the year as families take off for their summer vacations to discover new places and sample different cultures, or simply to reconnect with loved ones and friends.

The Central Intelligence Agency reported that it recently foiled a plot to use a non-metallic bomb built in Yemen intended to destroy an unnamed American airliner. This is an indication that, once again, passengers on aircraft and mass transit could become targets of international terrorism plots which emanate from al-Qaida and its growing number of affiliates.

Spreading world paranoia

The terrorists are finding more innovative ways to spread world paranoia. We recall the bomb sewn into the underwear of a would-be suicide bomber, which was to have detonated over the United States city of Detroit in 2009, and in 2010, printer toner cartridge bombs which were addressed to synagogues in Chicago and which should have exploded in the air over the city.

The question is: What can ordinary people do to protect themselves? Should we allow the fear of terrorism to keep us cowering at home, or should we simply shrug it off and live a full life?

Friends of mine who are making plans to be in London this year to bask in the expected glory of the Jamaican athletes say they will keep their eyes open but will not allow terrorists to steal their joy. They recognise that the Olympics could be a magnet for terrorists who are bent on wreaking mayhem on innocent people. However, fans are determined to witness history unfold.

In fact, it is very much the same way many people approach life in Jamaica. Given the high murder rate, the daily robberies, and other crimes, many people could be forgiven for wanting to lock themselves in and leave home only when it is absolutely necessary.

Global phenomenon

But Jamaicans are a fun-loving people, so we fire off emails to our friends to warn of the latest scam, whether it is an abandoned baby by the side of the road, or paper fastened to one's car glass, and we shrug our shoulders and we move on to the next adventure.

Terrorism is a global phenomenon, and we must hope that counterterrorism, intelligence and information sharing across borders will help to identify the threats and flush out the merchants of hate who are scheming to avenge the death of their leader, Osama bin Laden. In this era of international terrorism, people have to be alert to anything that appears to be out of the normal. We can no longer live the motto of 'minding my own business'.

It will be quite an expensive security operation, and already we are hearing that the security budget for the Olympics has ballooned many times over by employing thousands of guards and security personnel. The preparedness includes anti-aircraft missiles, which could give the false impression that Britain is preparing for a war instead of a peaceful sporting event. Sports-loving fans everywhere will hope the International Olympic Committee can deliver on its promise of a safe and secure event.

Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.