x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Biggest operation in South Africa's history

A total of 41,000 police officers will be on duty throughout the event, with support from some of the competing nations.

Thousands of policemen will be deployed.
Thousands of policemen will be deployed.

The security operation being mounted by the South African authorities for the World Cup is the biggest in the country's history. A total of 41,000 police officers will be on duty throughout the event, with support from some of the competing nations. Air, land and sea exercises, in some cases also involving the military, have been held in preparation, and as well as ordinary crime, the security plan covers hooliganism and terrorism, right up to "chemical, biological and radioactive attacks to hijackings, hostage situations and major disasters, both natural and unnatural". South Africa has already hosted more than 100 major sporting events, including the Rugby World Cup and cricket's Indian Premier League, but has never seen anything on this scale, as the authorities are acutely aware of the possible public relations repercussions if visitors were to become victims.

Describing it as "the biggest show on Earth", Nathi Mthethwa, the police minister, said it "puts the hosting nation on the spotlight throughout the world", placing "a huge responsibility on our government and people to work doubly harder to ensure the safety of our visitors". The police operation is costing ZAR640million (Dh311m), with another ZAR665m spent on equipment, including six helicopters, 10 mobile command vehicles, body armour and a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. As many as 43 heads of state have indicated they will attend, but the nightmare scenario for Gen Bheki Cele, the national police commissioner, is a successful display by the US on the pitch. If the country reaches the knockout stages, it could see a visit by Barack Obama, the US president, whose security protocols compare with no other leader on the planet. Earlier this month, Gen Cele told a parliamentary committee: "Our famous prayer is that the Americans don't make the second round."

Offence Cases Change Per 100,000 Murder 18,148 -1.8 per cent 37.3 Attempted murder 18,298 -2.6 per cent 37.6 Serious assault 203,777 -3.0 per cent 418.5 Sexual offences 71,500 +12 per cent 146.9 Aggravated robbery 121,392 +2.6 per cent 249.3