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UN launches program to protect sports and prevent terrorism

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations counter-terrorism office launched a global program Monday to stop attacks at major sporting events and promote sports as a way to prevent extremism. U.N. counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov told the first meeting of international experts on sports and security that sports events, especially those where famous international athletes participate, have long been “a preferred terrorist target.”

He cited attacks against the Olympic games in 1972 and 1996, and bombings during the marathons in Sri Lanka in 2008 and Boston in 2013. Voronkov said “terrorists aim to destroy what sport represents” — positive values across civilizations and cultures, striving to aim higher, and promoting tolerance and gender equality.

This week’s two-day launch is focusing on the vulnerability of sports venues to terrorist attacks, and the second meeting in April will concentrate on strengthening the “resilience” of youth through sports to prevent extremism, he said.

In order to promote sports “as a tool to prevent violent extremism conducive to terrorism,” Voronkov said, the program will launch a major campaign involving sports champions called “Say NO to Terrorism.”

It will also collect best practices, assist countries in developing national strategies, and work with civil society organizations at the grassroots level, he said. Among those attending Monday’s launch were U.N. organizations, the International Center for Sport Security, the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, regional sports federations and private companies.

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