Terrorism has been described as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty. Obviously, a lot depends on perspective. Terrorism is difficult to define. Even within the US, government agencies have different definitions for it. But, even with varying definitions, the motives for terrorism are always the same. For a very long time, terrorism has been a method for extremist groups to draw the attention of the local public, governments, and the world to their cause. The terrorists plan their attack to obtain the most exposure, choosing targets that represent what they oppose. The effectiveness of the terrorist act is not in the act itself, but in the reactions to the act. This reasoning is why sport events are frequently targets of terrorism. In these acts of terror, there are the immediate victims and also their true targets, the countless people spectating. All these spectators are exposed to fear which is, ultimately, the goal of terrorism. This type of terrorism creates widespread fear and is meant to cause an overreaction from society and the government and often succeeds in doing so. There are four perspectives that terrorism can be viewed from: the terrorists, the victims, general society, and the host society. The terrorist in his/her mind do not see themselves as evil. Instead, they believe themselves fighters, righteous in their cause, willing to do anything to attain their goals. The victims see the terrorist as criminals committing heinous acts with no regard for human life. The general population, similar to the victims, see the terrorist as evil and enemies of order in society. Then the host society. Terrorist nest themselves in societies that sympathize with them; they might not support them but, they’re willing to tolerate them. There’s a saying “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Terrorist try to adopt the “Robing Hood” image to try to sway people’s point of view. Throughout history, there have been countless acts of terror on sporting events but most recently: a suicide bombing during an Iraqi soccer match and the Paris attacks.
On Friday, the 25th of March, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a soccer stadium south of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, killing 29 people and wounding 60. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bombing that took place on the 54th minute of the soccer match. This bombing was part of a longer campaign of bombings by the Islamic State as a response to Iraqi forces battling the militant group across the country. As the Islamic State continues to loss hold in their host societies, they resort to even more acts of terror. As unfortunate as it is, terrorism is an effective tactic for ISIS and in general, the smaller and weaker sides in a conflict. Terrorism has all the advantages of military warfare with a fraction of the cost and because of the small and disorganized nature of terrorist groups it is usually difficult for their opponents to defend or deter attacks. This attack is another example of terrorist attacking sporting events to maximize media attention and cause as much harm as possible. Terrorist attacks on sporting events are especially terrible because of the fundamental juxtaposition of what sports is meant to be and what terror is. Sports are a positive escape for people that embodies ideas of humanity and in many cases where terrorism is prevalent, i.e. lesser developed countries often dealing with religious strife, sports are the few things capable of doing that. But, with out warning, terrorism can pull people away from their escape to a hyper reality of violence and tragedy. What is hard to understand is why attack sporting events when the people attending are innocent bystanders who are in no way legitimate targets (not that any target is legitimate)?
On the evening of Friday 13, November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. The first attacks being three suicide bombers, near the Stade de France, followed by suicide bombings and shootings at cafes, restaurants and a music venue in central Paris. This first attacks were during a televised, international friendly, soccer game between France and Germany. This attack too was claimed responsible by ISIS. This attack is an example of terrorism that goes beyond the initial victims and targets the viewers, exposing the many people watching at home to terror, second hand. On TV, during the match, the explosions can be heard and the confusion, turning into distress, of the players and spectators as they realize what’s happening is apparent. In this age it’s startling how communication technologies have played such integral part in the exposure of people and ideologies regardless of their or it’s stance on the moral spectrum. Good or bad communication technology has connected the world. For terrorist, it links the victims to the rest of the world. It’s transformed local terror into a global issue. Even more so now with phone cameras, people get an almost first person point of view of the terror attacks, which can pretty frightening. Both of the attacks mentioned in this commentary had extensive first person camera footage that displayed the cruel nature of these attacks first person. Increased exposure due to advancing communication technologies has led to a rise in targeting sports for terrorism in recent history.
It’s impossible to talk about terrorism in sports with out mentioning maybe the most infamous event of this kind; the attacks on the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Palestinian militant group Black September took the Israeli national team hostage, eventually killing eleven athletes and coaches and one German police officer after a 16-hour standoff. During these 16 hours the possibly billions of viewers watched in fear. This attack is an embodiment of all the components that terrorism in sports can be. The attack disrupted the Olympics, an organization and event that is meant to be a forum for peaceful competition in the world, which opposes the principles of the terrorist group. It used the Olympics, being a high profile event, to propel themselves onto the global platform and gain worldwide exposure. It was a devastating tragedy that had consequences in a global and sports context.
Terrorism is an act of cowardice that has no place in the world of sports, but time and time again it finds its ways. Terrorism can deter but it can never destroy. Human perseverance will always prevail and people will never stop playing/watching the sports they love.