Rio de Janeiro, July 17 (IANS) Following the terrorist strike in the southern French city of Nice earlier this week, Brazil is bolstering security measures ahead of the August 5 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Terrorism has become the overriding concern for organisers of the Games, eclipsing a recent upsurge in violence in Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro, compounded by local police threatening to go on strike over insufficient wages, and an ongoing political crisis, reports Xinhua.
Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer was quick to react to Thursday’s attack in the French resort of Nice, where a man plowed a truck into Bastille Day revelers, killing more than 80 people and injuring some 200.
Temer convened an emergency meeting of his security cabinet to discuss what extra measures could be taken.
“We are going to have to intensify our control and security systems,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said afterwards, adding the tragedy in Nice showed “any tool, any instrument, any vehicle can serve as a medium for a terrorist act”.
Brazilian intelligence chief Sergio Etchegoyen, officially Chief Minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet, said residents will have to get used to “a lot of security” in coming days.
One of the measures adopted was to increase the buffer zone between Olympic venues and circulating traffic, as well as tightening controls for accessing the competition sites.
Other proposed measures include extending naval patrols of the city’s famed beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema from the waterfront to inland streets.
A representative of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) travelled to Nice to receive information on the attack firsthand from the French authorities and secret services.
While Temer has tried to allay fears by stating Brazil is prepared to ward off a terrorist strike, recent attacks perpetrated by so-called “lone wolf” assailants have highlighted the difficulty of foreseeing such events.
What is more, a member of the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS), which has claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice, last year posted a threatening message on Twitter, saying it had Brazil in its crosshairs. Abin confirmed the authenticity of the message.
Last week, French media revealed an alleged terrorist plot to target France’s Olympic delegation. Though Brazilian authorities denied knowing about any such plan, they said they will bolster security around the French and athletes from eight to 10 other “high risk” countries, without specifying which those were.
Some 10,000 police officers and armed forces troops will also be undercover among the general public to detect anything unusual, authorities said.
The initial security plan calls for deploying a force of 85,000 to safeguard the Olympics, including 38,000 armed forces troops.
In addition, intelligence services from over 100 countries will be joining an international intelligence center created especially for the duration of the Games, which conclude on August 21.
Brazil has hosted several large-scale international events in recent years, such as the 2012 United Nations Sustainable Development Conference, 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup football tournaments, but the Olympics is the most global event of them all.
In the lead up to the Olympics, the country has sent some 100 police officers to international events around the world, such as the Super Bowl, Tour de France, Champions League final and UN General Assembly to learn from other security schemes.