With attacks in Europe still haunting the public consciousness, the security of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast warrants close attention. Thus far, Australia appears to be prudently attending to these risks. In May of this year, the Australian parliament passed an array of laws that give police the authority to search people and premises in specified areas.1 National security authorities also recently designed and implemented a strategy to protect crowded places from terror threats.2
The number of police, defence forces, and security personnel will outnumber athletes. As a part of the beefed-up security system, attendees will face airport-style screening. There will be fast-track lanes for people without bags, preventing the lines themselves from becoming too much of a target. Furthermore, Queensland Police and State Government have established Project Unite, a community safety campaign designed to deter, detect and disrupt criminal and terrorist activity prior to, during, and after the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Queensland Police and State Government have established Project Unite, a community safety campaign designed to deter, detect and disrupt criminal and terrorist activity prior to, during and after the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Given the challenges that Rio faced in the run-up to and during the 2016 Summer Olympics, it is a useful place to look for ways to be maximally prepared. There is little arguing that security was a major problem throughout the Olympics which organisers at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games wish to avoid.
Public authorities were ill-equipped to handle the rise in crime, due, in large part, to fiscal pressure from Brazil’s financial crisis. To protest their cut in compensation, police protested by welcoming tourists and athletes was signs announcing they would not be safe in Rio. In truth, police were foreshadowing the crises yet to come. Multiple athletes and coaches were robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint.
Security of one of the main emergency hospitals for the Olympics was breached as armed criminals broke into the facility and freed a suspected drug lord only a month before the games. On the terror-fighting front, authorities blew up the clothing-filled suitcase of the mother of an athlete after erroneously suspecting that it contained a bomb.3
Nonetheless, it would be unfair to ignore the legitimate efforts of the country to ensure security. To mitigate the threat of independent terror attacks, the government deployed a large number of military personnel to Rio, which increased the total number of security personnel by roughly 30%.4 Despite Brazil not being commonly considered a prime terror target, the country’s national intelligence reported to have taken the terror threat seriously.5
Organisers of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have dedicated an additional 3500 police officers from across the state to augment the already 1000 officers who will be policing the Gold Coast.
The challenges that Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is likely to face will differ considerably from those of Rio. For example, local and territorial violent criminal gangs are unlikely to be of problem for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as it was for the Olympic site. Although, there is still an element of organised crime gangs including outlaw motorcycle clubs operating in the area.
Furthermore, the threat of terrorism is one, which is being taken seriously. Any large gathering of spectators or crowds becomes a potential target for armed offenders, active shooters, “lone wolf”, religious and ideological threats, and anyone looking to make any form of political statement. Organisers of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have dedicated an additional 3500 police officers from across the state to augment the already 1000 officers who will be policing the Gold Coast.
Nonetheless, authorities are developing a strategy to handle a diverse array of challenges by working with a broad network of security personnel from the public and private sectors. Strategically maintaining a role for private security firms, like local Gold Coast-based Panoptic Solutions, will bring in expertise from local companies with extensive knowledge of the region and specialised security personnel, complementing and strengthening the efforts of the police and national security.