April 21, 1995 in Sports

Violent Acts Do Not Exclude Sports World

David Casstevens Arizona Republic
 

So, where next?

That’s the question we ask. It’s the question those responsible for the horror in Oklahoma City want us to ask ourselves, and each other, today, tomorrow and the day after.

What will be the next target? Another federal building? A church? A child-care center?

A university?

Maybe a stadium or a ballpark?

“Not even unspeakable atrocities can stop the spirit of man to keep living; to try to make something out of the world as it is.”

Those hopeful words - words we need to hear - could have been those of the governor of Oklahoma or the mayor of Oklahoma City in the wake of Wednesday’s murderous explosion.

Jim McKay, the TV broadcaster, spoke those words in Munich at the 1972 Olympics after Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village and made their way to the dormitory of the Israeli team. Nine Israelis were killed.

It would be reassuring to know there exists some place in the world where we are safe. That there is a haven where we can go and be removed and insulated and immune from the senseless tragedies we witness on the news.

Sadly, there are no sanctuaries from the randomness of violence - which is the terror of terrorism.

Not even in the world of sports.

On hearing of the Oklahoma bombing, I thought of the Pan Am Games in Caracas in 1983. Teen-age soldiers stood guard at the press center and at every venue, checking every bag, every computer case, their eyes shifting nervously, loaded rifles in hand.

I thought of the day four years ago when Michael Chang abruptly walked off Centre Court at Wimbledon. Iron gates at the All England Tennis Club clanged shut. Police formed barricades. Vendors fled icecream stands.

What’s wrong? What’s happening?

“A sife-ty probe-lem,” is all one bobby would say.

Police had discovered a suspiciouslooking package on the ground. Play was halted for more than an hour until a bomb-squad unit from Scotland Yard determined that the item in question was only an empty camera case.

Earlier in the week, a bomb exploded at London’s Carlton Club, a well-known watering hole for political conservatives. Several persons were hospitalized.

I thought of Super Bowl XXV, played under the shadow of war in the Middle East and the specter of Saddam Hussein.

As a safety measure, Tampa Stadium was transformed into a fortress. Construction crews erected a 6-foot chain-link fence around the stadium, and a concrete barrier around the fence.

More than 1,500 uniformed and plainclothes security personnel were called in. The Federal Aviation Authority banned aircraft from flying over the stadium.

The 78,000 fans were funneled through four gates so they could be scanned with metal detectors. Nervous parents pulled 20 children from the Disney halftime show for fear of terrorism.

I thought of the blimp that starred in the 1977 John Frankenheimer movie about an international terrorist plot to blow up the Super Bowl. It was titled “Black Sunday.”

I thought of law-enforcement officers and those in charge of security for next summer’s Olympic Games in Atlanta. What must they be thinking?

On Wednesday, at the same time the bomb sheared away the front of the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City, FBI agents and local law-enforcement officers in Atlanta were playing out a make-believe crisis situation at the Olympic equestrian center.

About 100 officers, including FBI Special Weapons and Tactics personnel, participated in the exercise, which began with a car-bombing and evolved into a hostage-taking in which a band of terrorists abducted a member of European royalty.

“What we kept emphasizing is … ‘Play it for real, because one day it may be,”’ David W. Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta office, told the Associated Press.

“We don’t want anything to happen here,” Johnson said, speaking for every sane person in this world.


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