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Olympics seem clean but still big problems elsewhere say sports security experts

posted 8 Aug 2012, 10:35 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 8 Aug 2012, 10:36 ]

Sports security and corruption experts in London say the Olympics seem clean, but there still big problems elsewhere, especially with match-fixing and illegal gambling.

LONDON, UK (AUGUST 8, 2012) (REUTERS) - The London Olympics have been free of the match-fixing by criminal gangs that is undermining sports around the globe, an anti-corruption watchdog said on Wednesday (August 8).

But success in London should not blind anyone to the threat posed by a toxic combination of organised crime and unlicensed bookmakers, many of them based in South East Asia, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had been concerned that criminals could target the Olympics and it has set up an information point in the athletes' village helps to warn competitors of the risks. Athletes can take an online multiple choice test to help drive home the message.

It seems to be working so far. However, the Games have been marred by cases of competitors playing to lose group games to try to engineer an easier route to gold.

Eight badminton players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified for trying to throw matches for that purpose.

ICSS Director of Sport Integrity Chris Eaton, a former policeman in Australia and head of security at FIFA, told Reuters in London on Wednesday: "Well I think it's going very well. I think the IOC has been true to its word, to protect the integrity of athletics for instance and for Olympic competition. I think (IOC President) Jacques Rogge and the IOC deserve an accolade for the way they have tackled the integrity issues that have cropped up -- not very many at all of course. The decision on the badminton teams that underperformed: I think an exemplary decision and one that shows a message to all sports."

A fixing-free Olympics comes in spite of rampant corruption and fixed competitions elsewhere, however.

"Well I think the, the root of the problem is there's the poorly regulated and unregulated, you have both in fact. You have, well you have three; you have illegal, totally illegal gambling houses as well that operate in cash and they are very significant in size in South East Asia. But it is in fact the unregulated and poorly regulated that we need to bring out of the dark, bring them into the light of regulation, so we can see who is manipulating the, the gambling outcome," said Eaton.

He said an estimated one trillion U.S. dollars is gambled on sport each year -- three billion dollars a day -- and mafia gangs are attracted to match-fixing because it is a way of laundering cash.

Eaton said the fight against corruption in sport can be won, but sporting regulators have to put their own houses in order and not expect the police to do it all.

"No this, (of) course it can be won, it can be won by sports themselves, by properly regulating and putting in their good monitoring mechanisms and match control mechanisms, appointing refereeing mechanisms. We need to have a fit-and-proper persons test for many key positions in sport. I mean, there are a variety of tools that sport can adopt to protect itself. And it's very important that sport protects itself because police won't do it for them," said Eaton.

The ICSS is a not-for-profit organisation based in the Qatari capital of Doha which campaigns on sporting security, safety and integrity.