Portugal’s successful Euro 2004 security

Aside from the Greek soccer team’s success at the Euro 2004 in Portugal, another great achievement was Portugal’s successful organization of the championship itself. Over the space of a month, over 1 million people watched 30 matches in different towns. Despite the potential risks, the worst thing that happened was when a Ukrainian pickpocket stabbed and killed a British soccer fan. With the Athens Olympics just over a month away, Kathimerini English Edition spoke to the person responsible, Lieutenant General Leonel Carvalho, the general coordinator of the Security Committee for Euro 2004, about how Portugal dealt with the question of security, and the conclusions that could be drawn. The European soccer championship in your country was a great success, both in terms of sportsmanship and security. It impressed us here in Greece very much. Congratulations on all accounts. Can you tell us how many spectators attended the sports events and what were the major problems presented by such an influx of people at a time of heightened security concerns? The overall number of spectators that attended the 30 matches came to 1,165,700. The number of foreign soccer fans that entered Portugal to attend the matches, was estimated at above 500,000 The major problems, which were always resolved, dealt with the large flux of air traffic: airplanes and passengers at airports and terminals, which led us to adopt and adapt to new infrastructure and reinforce control at the borders, and adopt tougher police supervision. How did you manage to achieve the high level of security? (In other words, the organization of the Portuguese security forces, NATO, intelligence from other countries and agencies, cooperation with other countries, etc.) Apart from favorable factors, such as the warm and festive reception contributed by the Portuguese people, the high level of security was achieved by: – Efficient and early planning, with a security plan ready well beforehand, a year prior to the championship. [The plan contained] all the strategic guidelines and general orientation, thus allowing all the security forces and services to avail themselves of necessary material so as to work out operational plans, conduct training and exercises for its forces. – The acquisition, a year ahead, of various necessary security equipment, such as various types of vehicles; protection and equipment for the maintenance of public order; horses, dogs, etc. – Many training and test exercises in the new stadiums and in the cities of such stadiums, as long as a year ahead of the event and a continuation of the same until the opening of the tournament. – A police information coordinating center was constituted to serve as an operational information interlink between various national forces and services, with databases of the Euro 2004 participating countries, through international police cooperation. – Support, in loco, by police forces from the participating countries that were involved in the championship, about 120 specialists in the area of violence related to sports events and at football matches in particular. – Constant exchange of information in the field of anti-terrorism, through the intelligence services. – Prevention of a possible air attack, with the help of a NATO airplane, in addition to the maximum alert and precaution measures enforced by the Portuguese Air Force. Portugal hosted the biggest sports event between the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and the Summer Games of Athens 2004 and was therefore a possible terrorist target. Was there any indication of a terrorist threat before or during the championship? (Did intelligence services pick up any indication of preparations aimed against the soccer championship?) In the area of coordination of anti-terrorism information, we work closely with various information services of foreign countries, also with Interpol and Europol. [There was] no indication of any authentic threat that was ever directed at Euro 2004, nor any legal information that gave indication of any such terrorist attack. What were the lessons Portuguese organizers learned, regarding security, from hosting the Euro 2004 soccer? Could security have been better? According to our own evaluation and according to the assessment made by various foreign authorities, as well as national and international media, the opinion is that security was exemplary. Thus, the lesson learned is that with efficient planning and corresponding execution of it, adding a bit of luck, the result is always very positive, especially if, as happened in Portugal, the public responded with great joy and enthusiasm throughout the entire event. The security went well, in accordance to the best of our expectations. I know that you visited Athens and met with Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and discussed security issues in May. Was there any other contact with Greek security officials? Have the Portuguese helped the Greeks prepare for the Athens Olympics? Have the Greeks asked for help? Up to this moment, we have not received any request for assistance on the part of the Athens Olympic organization, except for a request concerning civil protection and emergency, through [NATO’s] Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Have any other countries that are hosting major sports events contacted you for cooperation on security issues, following the experience that you have gained? The German authorities (with Germany hosting the 2006 World Soccer Cup) as well as both the Austrians and Swiss (hosting the Euro 2008) have already started to establish contacts, in the sense of Portugal providing some advice in the area of security and safety, naturally based on the experience gained with the hosting of Euro 2004. What message would you have for Athens as it prepares to host the Olympics? What are the main points it needs to look out for in its preparations? Perhaps there was something that had not been foreseen entirely before the Euro soccer championship began. The main message that we wish to convey to the Athens Olympics is «good luck and much success.» We learned that some delays were registered on construction sites of some sports grounds and other supportive infrastructures for the Games. [This] being so, it will be difficult to hold security exercises and tests ahead of time. However, within conditions and time availability, it is important to carry out as many security exercises and tests as possible, of different kinds in the sense of improving with each effective training the security devices in loco and the various equipment directly or indirectly connected to security and safety. As for Euro 2004, a lot improved with each exercise and test until the final solution was reached. Once again, I send my wishes of good luck and of congratulations to Greece on its victory in the 2004 Euro Championship.