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Security made a top priority by both hosts

Measures include searches, troops, anti- aircraft missiles and extra protection for U.S. personnel.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002


Nearly 450,000 foreign spectators are expected to travel to the 20 host cities in South Korea and Japan to watch 2002 World Cup matches.

Every one can count on being searched, questioned and monitored closely in what will be the most security conscious World Cup since the inaugural event in 1930.

The Japan World Cup Organizing Committee will spend $21-million on security for the World Cup, the first to be held in Asia. Troops will be stationed around each venue (10 in Japan and 10 in South Korea). Armed guards will fly on domestic and international flights on All Nippon Airways, Japan's largest airline, during the World Cup.

Anti-aircraft missiles will be positioned around stadiums, and fighter jets will patrol the skies around venues to enforce no-fly zones.

There will be spotters in each stadium looking for those who cause problems in the stands.

SWAT teams in both countries have practiced breaking up mock riots.

There has been tight security at past World Cups.

But since the Sept.11 terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, organizers of this World Cup are taking no chances.

"Given the severity that the world has come under since (Sept.11) we've really been putting a lot of time and energy into security issues," Japanese organizing committee spokesman Glenn Johnston told Reuters.

That means leaving nothing to chance, especially from the United States' perspective. The U.S. team, which opens June5 against Portugal in Suwon, South Korea, is being cautious.

The South Korean World Cup Organizing Committee announced it would provide extra security for the United States while it is in the country.

While all teams will have police motorcades to and from matches, the U.S. team will have eight extra SWAT team members at all times.

"We have our own consultants who work closely with the state department, and there are measures being planned for and being taken while we're in Korea," said Robert Contiguglia, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. "We're concerned all the time when we travel and, of course, we're very concerned in Korea. But we're making appropriate plans. I can tell you more resources are being put into it.

"When we went to Catania (Italy, on Feb.13), we didn't even go through customs. We got off the airplane on the tarmac and into a bus and had a SWAT team with us all the time at the hotel. There were armed guards on the floors. We're used to all that."

Italy, which is a favorite to win the event, isn't taking any chances either.

The team will be shadowed by special security agents of the Caribinieri, Italy's special paramilitary police.

That's the reality of an international event, especially after Sept.11.

-- Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.

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