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Rio to double London security personnel

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Ceremony ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, July 3, 2015. Brazil will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. PHOTO/AFP
Ceremony ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, July 3, 2015. Brazil will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. PHOTO/AFP

RIO-DE-JANEIRO, July 31- Rio de Janeiro will deploy double the number of security personnel for next year’s Olympic Games than were used in the 2012 London games, officials said Thursday.

Some 85,000 personnel will be deployed, including 38,000 military troops, Rio’s security secretary, Andrei Passos Rodrigues, told a news conference.

“It will be the biggest integrated operation in the history of our country,” he said.

The huge security presence will dwarf that of London, where 40,000 personnel were used, including 18,000 troops.

Despite high crime rates, Brazilian security chiefs say they have enough experience at policing mega events, such as the 2012 UN Rio+20 environmental summit attended by 191 countries, a 2013 visit by Pope Francis, the Confederations Cup in 2013 and the World Cup in 2014.

Because the Olympics is mostly concentrated within Rio, the security response will be “very intense,” Rodrigues said.

The city will have 47,500 members of the paramilitary police and other security forces, while 38,000 troops will provide security in the five other cities hosting Olympic football matches: Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Manaus.

Brazil has one of the world’s worst crime rates, with an estimated 52,000 murders a year, compared to just over 14,000 in 2013 for the United States, which has a population more than 100 million people greater.

In Rio itself, crime has dropped over the last year, but there were still 625 murders between January and June, as well as 1,267 attempted murders. Robberies were up.

– Terrorism lower –

Apart from the street crime, a high profile international event like the Olympics is inevitably seen as a major potential target for militant groups.

The 1972 massacre by Palestinians of Israeli athletes in Munich still looms over Olympic history, but today’s potential threats — including the feared use of amateur drones — have greatly multiplied.

Brazil has such a low profile in world conflicts that the subject receives little attention in the national media or discussions of preparations for the Games.

Brazil’s security forces have limited experience with counter-terrorism but officials say they are working with counterparts from more than 90 countries to protect against militant attacks or cyber attacks.

“Until now, there have been no threats, but we are alert,” said Saulo Moura, from the intelligence agency ABIN.

The government says it has previously invested 1.17 billion reais ($354 million) in security for mega events and that another $280 million is being budgeted for the Olympic Games.

In addition to the impressive numbers of armed officers who will be out on the streets, unarmed national guards soldiers will help with security inside the stadiums, while prison guards will boost numbers at entrance points and metal detector posts.

The Olympics, the first to be held in South America — Mexico was the first Latin American host in 1968 — will open August 5, 2016 and close August 21.

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