Feature: Indian venue security

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MEI's security editor Jane Symonds looks at the possibilities for stadium and event security in India.

A recent UK report showed that stadia in India are not meeting international safety and security standards, but experts are confident the country has the ability and motivation to improve its major event venues. In 2008, International Stadium Group commissioned UK architectural practice HKS on behalf of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to provide a report on seven Indian cricket stadia and their conformation to international guidelines such as the 'green guide' for Safety at Sports Grounds. Event and Venue Management Institute chairman David Griffiths, who worked with HKS on the report, said the prognosis was not good. "The stadia are well past their sell–by date. They don't conform to the guide in many ways. Their designing for the disabled is non–existent, their turnstiles are very old, some of the seating terraces are crumbling–yet they pack between 50, 000 and 100, 000 people into these stadia. They wouldn't get past any of our criteria in [the UK] for safety of sports grounds. "StadiArena chief operating officer Ian Stokes, whose organisation is partnered with Indian company TransStadia to build a stadium in Gujarat, India, said there was "room for improvement" in the existing stadia. "[India's] own admission is that there is a massive need to improve facilities, " Stokes said. "They have their own ambitions to become internationally competitive, and they need to improve their stadia to do that. "The Gujarat StadiArena, a world–first, will incorporate the capability to convert part of the stadium into an indoor arena, allowing the venue to be used up to 67% of the year. According to a StadiArena statement, the project will deliver revenue and legacy, decreasing dormancy normally associate with stadia, and allowing costs to be recouped within five years. "We're in negotiations with the government on the final design of the stadium, " Stokes said. "With the complexity of the development, it's too early to talk about security until the exact design is confirmed, but the security within this is key–it's part of the client's requirements and part of our objectives as well. This will be the first StadiArena in the world so it will be the best possible solution we can provide. "Developments such as this could help to overcome what Griffiths said was a current lack of security planning. "There seems to be a culture whereby the stadium management are happy to hand over to the police the running of the event. I'm not talking about referees and linesmen, but the running of the event with regards to crowd ingress and egress. "In the stadia reviewed, Griffiths said the use of technology was limited, both in relation to security and to evolving marketing and publicity strategies. He said: "For example, there are no Intelligent Venue and Customer Knowledge Systems (IVACKS). With modern technology, you can prepay for your ticket then arrive at a stadium and swipe your mobile phone or a smart card. You can get your beefburger and Budweiser at half–time without having to part with cash. And when you go home, the stadium has a means to identify you and ask you: 'Mr Smith, you haven't been to a match in two months, would you like to buy a ticket? Would you like a new Arsenal shirt? '"The rapid development of technology means that not only must stadia achieve a certain level of technological advancement, they must have the capability to continue to expand and update it. Stokes said, while there may not be a high standard at present, he saw a positive attitude towards technology in Indian venues. "There's a definite appetite to invest in technology, " he explained. "Part of our brief in Gujarat is very high–tech on acoustics, visuals, all of the things we can build into the stadium. They want a highly technical facility. "Griffiths said that changes must be made to keep India in a position to host major events. "Since [the HKS] report was written, there have been terrorist problems in Mumbai, and the IPL are now moving their games to South Africa. [India] has to do something. They're going to be hosting the Cricket World Cup in 2011, and they have to do something rapidly if they wish to present, to the rest of the world, a competence for hosting major events at spectator facilities. It seems they've got millions and millions of dollars to spend on the IPL, for the purchase of players. I think they need to get their act together with regard to upgrading, or in some cases rebuilding, existing stadia. "With plans for four or five StadiArena projects to be put in place in the next two years, Stokes said he is confident the events of Mumbai and Lahore will not detract from the hosting of major events in India. "I think in the right venues, with the right security planning, improvement [to venues] will accelerate, " Stokes said. "There is massive potential. India is one of our three main markets at this stage–in fact it's our leading market. "Griffiths also said that India could rise to the challenge of making its venues safe. "I was at Wembley in the 1970s when the IRA were bombing London. We got through the 1970s okay, I've no doubt that India will get through the early part of this century with its scares. "Griffiths said opportunities existed for international investment, particularly in the area of risk and disaster management. "Each stadium has to have a bespoke operations and disaster manual. You can't do one for all. There is a market out there for people to go [to India] to write up–to–date modern evacuation disaster manuals, and incorporate the police and the electricity and the lights, as well as ambulances and hospitals, and all the people that you need onside if you're going to put on a major event. There is a need for someone to go out there and offer their services. "Meanwhile, Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation has dismissed claims that the 2010 Commonwealth Games will be moved from Delhi following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Lahore. He told MEI: "There's no truth whatsoever that Melbourne is on standby. That's a fantasy. The Games will happen in Delhi. That said, we take the issues of security very seriously and have engaged our own experts to oversee and satisfy ourselves that everyone will be safe next year. The Indian security forces will amend their own plans accordingly as there are always going to be threats, as was the case with other Commonwealth Games. No–one knows what tomorrow brings and if anyone says they know what the exact situation will be at the time of Delhi 2010, then they are lying. The truth is that no–one knows what might happen and therefore plans have to be amended as appropriate. "He added however that both the events that happened in Lahore and Mumbai will influence the planning put in place by the Indian government to ensure a safe environment for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. "That's the commitment they gave. Security planning is a serious and evolving process. I expect that the security plans will change several times before the actual event. "

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