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THE organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this August have reason to worry, with the recent series of terrorist attacks in France, Turkey, Bangladesh, and even in Medina, Islam’s second holiest city in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier attacks were against Western nations like France, Belgium, and the United States. But a gun and suicide rampage at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, in the last week of June appeared to have widened the target of the extremist Islamic State to include even Islamic countries standing in the way of its goal of establishing a worldwide Muslim caliphate.
More terrorist attacks have taken place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in Baghdad, Iraq. In some cases, the violence has been attributed to the age-old conflict between Islam’s Sunnis and Shiites. But there are also other extremist groups – and sometimes individuals – not affiliated with the Islamic State, just out to do violence to the established order.
That places the Olympic Games right in the cross-hairs of such extremists. And Brazil has rightly expressed concern.
Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer held an emergency meeting last week to discuss steps to take for the Olympics on August 5-21 – including the deployment of 85,000 policemen and soldiers to provide security, double the number in the 2012 London Games, barricades, checkpoints, and traffic restrictions. They specifically had in mind the most recent attack in Nice, France, where one man driving a 19-ton truck plowed into masses of people gathered along a two-kilometer stretch of road for the Bastille Day celebration, killing 84 in all.
The Rio Olympics already faces a big problem in the ongoing Zika epidemic, with many athletes deciding to skip the Games and expected attendance is down due to their fear that they may get bitten by some stray mosquito and get infected with the Zika virus with its fearsome consequences. This new threat from possible terrorist attack places an additional burden on Brazil’s authorities.
But we are confident that they are up to the challenge – both the health and the security officials – and that the Olympics, the first one to be held in South America, will be held successfully carried out in the great tradition of the Games, the world’s oldest movement for world peace.