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Commonwealth Games 2002
 
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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Security tight for Games
Manchester was hit by a bomb attack six years ago
Manchester has been rebuilt after the 1996 bomb attack
Police have mounted a major operation to thwart any security threat to the Commonweath Games.

Manchester, which was hit by a devastating IRA bomb attack six years ago, hosts the Games, which start on Thursday.

It will be one of the biggest international events since the 11 September attacks in America.

But Assistant Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes is confident his team of specialist officers will be able to counter any threat of international or domestic attacks.

"The biggest challenge for us is to marry security with the ethos of the Commonwealth Games, which are billed as the friendly games," said Hughes.

open quote
We've done everything in our power to plan for a safe Games
end quote
Meredydd Hughes of Manchester police

"We've built our security plan in a different way. It's more discreet, there is a lot of activity going on under the surface."

The 1996 bomb ripped the heart out of the city centre, injuring more than 200 people.

It paved the way for a 1 billion regeneration project but left deep scars on the city and its residents.

Hughes said that, while there had been no specific international or domestic threat to the Games, officers were aware it was a potential target.

The Games are expected to draw a million visitors to the northern English city, including Queen Elizabeth and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as many foreign dignitaries.

"Manchester police have had that experience in 1996 and it is an experience we don't want to repeat. Therefore we have planned our best efforts to prevent it recurring," said Hughes.

"We've brought in a lot of specialist services. We've got specialist search teams and support from 29 police forces here."

Those specialists include firearms and explosives teams, underwater searchers, aerial search teams and criminal intelligence officers.

Every inch of the city, from its sewers to its waterways, streets, alleys and public buildings, is being scoured for any sign of weapons, explosives or any other potential threat, said Hughes.

Sniffer dogs trained to seek out explosives are being used across all the Games venues, including the village housing the 6,000 athletes and the city's hotels.

A significant number of officers will carry firearms.

But Hughes said the city's best defence was its army of "blunt northerners" in the shape of the more than 1,000 police officers who would be on duty each day.

Hughes said despite the intensive preparations, police wanted to take a low-profile role at the Games and make it as easy as possible for people to enjoy themselves.

"We've done everything in our power to plan for a safe Games. There is no information to suggest anything to the contrary," Hughes said.

"We know what we have to do and we understand how we are going to do it."


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23 Jul 02 | England
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