By Rob Ficiur
“Why does Mac Mahon Stadium have those red, blue and white lights shining that way?” I asked as I drove down Calgary’s Crowchild Trail at 9 pm on Friday November 13. I have driven through the area many times and never seen such a colorful light display.
By the next morning I saw enough displays of the French flag that I will never forget it. The world, on masse felt a need to show Paris and France their support. The sporting world was involved right away in finding ways to show solidarity for France and against the terrorists’ strike in Paris. The sports world’s response to the attacks symbolization of how the world’s response to what people see as a new level of terrorism. The following are four different responses from the sports community:
1. The French National Anthem, Le Marseillaise, was sung at National Hockey League and National Basketball games Saturday. It is common in sports to have a moment of silence to pay respects to a large scale disaster. The French National anthem took the show of support to a higher level. The National Anthem at sporting events can be so routine for fans that it can be easy to think past the song. At Remembrance Day Canadians take the time to reflect on the high price we have paid for the freedoms we have. On those days our national anthem is more like a hymn of gratitude. Using the French national anthem at these games was one of the highest signs of respect and support that could have been done.
2. The Paris terrorist attacks reminds us how vulnerable we are to random acts of violence. Paris and France have had more than their share of ISIL related attacks in the last year. No matter where we are in the world there is no safe location where terrorists can reach. Copy cats often spring up after big events like the Paris attacks. Security at NHL stadiums was raised a level for Saturday’s games. High profile public sporting events provide a large number of people that terrorists can use to get attention to their message.
The casualty count in Paris could have been much worse. Security guards at the Stade de France football (soccer) stadium stopped a first terrorist. His goal was to go into the crowded stadium and detonate his suicide bomb, taking innocents soccer fans with him. When security would not let him enter the stadium the terrorist tried to flee the scene. During his escape his device blew up. Around the stadium three suicide bombers and one civilian died and one civilian. It could have been much worse had any of the three bombers got inside the stadium.
In the days, months and years to come security at major athletic events will tighten to levels we have never seen. The internet has given extremist a louder voice than they had before. People from all over the world chose to get involved in these events for diverse reasons. When we face increased security, fans will remember Paris and know that whatever new security measures they face will be for their own protection. Twenty years ago, ordinary people might have turned a blind eye to peculiar behavior by someone at an event. Events like September 11 and the Paris bombings will make each citizen more aware of those around them. Citizens don’t have to become the new police – but giving a few tips of suspicious people or behavior is now part of what we must do.
3. One article I saw said that the German soccer team did not leave the stadium that night. After threats were made against their hotel, it was felt safer for the German team to stay in the stadium over night before flying home Saturday. In a show of solidarity the French soccer team refused to return to their homes. They were opponents in a soccer match, but when that was over they were united against a common foe.
In my 40 plus years as a sports fans, terror attacks have rarely disrupted sporting events. The players lives went on as if nothing happened. (In fact the German vs French soccer game went on even after the two explosions were heard in the stands.) In the future, games and teams will likely have to deal with delays in games and transportation. We accept that baseball games are postponed by rain, and that hockey games have to be re-scheduled because of a blizzard. In the future security concerns will become common reason for some delay of games.
4. The Euro 2016 soccer tournament will take place in June 2016 as originally planned. The opening game will take place on June 10 at the The Stade de France, the site of the terrorist bombing. The games will go on. While we may see delays, games and life will go on as people refuse to give in to fear.