Olympics offers lessons that we can learn from

The Beijing Olympics is set to start on Friday and already there are concerns that security may emerge as the major issue of these Games given what the Chinese authorities have termed a terror attack which claimed the lives of 16 police officers.

The Beijing Olympics is set to start on Friday and already there are concerns that security may emerge as the major issue of these Games given what the Chinese authorities have termed a terror attack which claimed the lives of 16 police officers.

Apparently some militant groups have vowed to disrupt the Games and recently the Chinese authorities have issued statements that they have arrested or smashed some of these gangs.

What the recent incidents serve to confirm is that security has to always be an overriding issue when preparing for events of this nature.

This calls for proper planning on the part of the hosts as well as better coordination with other international agencies.

On the playing fields themselves athletes from around the world are bracing themselves for glory in their sports and some would want to break world records, for that is what Olympic competition is all about.

This third largest sporting event in the world with the most diverse sporting codes is the ultimate that many young athletes aspire to. They will be there in their numbers representing the splendour of their home countries and the diversity of humanity.

Many of the guests will be in Beijing for what is billed as the best opening ceremony ever and as the World Cup 2010 Organising Committee we will be watching the ceremony very closely as we are already planning our own ceremonies for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. The arena where all these events will be taking place is already an icon of the Beijing skyline which shows what some of our stadiums will do to enhance the skylines of the host cities.

The officials in the meantime will be on the lookout for cheats who would be using illegal substances, something that has unfortunately blighted recent Olympic events. Outside the arena, the residents are preparing for a three-week disruption to their normal routines but it looks like the authorities and local communities are ready for such disruptions.

There are many elements to consider, but what is important in our case leading up to the Confederations Cup next year is that we have to take football fans, society and local communities along with us on our preparations.

This calls for intensified information sharing and public education on what the event is all about, how our preparations are progressing as well as what our expectations are for the tournament.

That is why we are particularly pleased that many of our media houses, especially the SABC, are now coming forward with a host of ideas on how to popularise events and inform the public about them. Several things have already been identified and they include mobilising football fans to change their ticket buying habits and the culture of arriving late at the stadiums.

We need to motivate and improve the skills of people in the services industries to provide excellent service to the many visitors anticipated.

We are particularly pleased that organisations such as Umsobomvu Youth Fund and South African Tourism are already preparing and in some instances providing such training programmes.

In the meantime many ordinary South Africans have come forward to register as volunteers and we are indeed very pleased that more than 20000 have registered in less than a month. The various initiatives and efforts by different bodies are helping us get closer to providing an excellent tournament next year. Ke nako.

X