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World's nuclear watchdog to help Beijing Olympics

Updated: 2007-11-20 09:24

EDINBURGH - The world's nuclear watchdog said on Monday it was helping China guard against any potential attack at next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Tomihiro Taniguchi, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the U.N. agency was providing nuclear detection equipment and training staff in its use to help protect participants and spectators.

He told Reuters the Vienna-based IAEA had already provided security advice and equipment for several such events, starting with the Athens Olympics in 2004, and also including the German football World Cup, the Asian Games in Qatar and the Pan-American Games in Brazil this summer.

Taniguchi is in Edinburgh for a four-day international conference on illicit nuclear trafficking.

Around 350 experts from nearly 70 countries are assessing anti-terrorist programmes and discussing how to combat any threat involving nuclear material.

The IAEA's sporting involvement began with an approach by the organisers of the Athens Olympics.

"Greece had so many tourists, not only arriving by air, but by boat and private boat. The Greeks were looking at how to better detect and control the movement of people and material," Taniguchi said.

A large number of Chinese observers attended the Athens games to learn from the Greek experience, and informal contacts had been made then with the IAEA. A formal agreement was reached a couple of years ago.

"The aim is to provide better prevention and protection for the events. At such large events, even if the physical effects (of an attack) are limited, the psychological effects can be serious," Taniguchi said.

But he added: "We like to maintain a low-key approach to avoid attracting too much attention."