Originally created 07/10/98

Organizers: World Cup security a success despite violence



PARIS -- World Cup officials insist security for the tournament has been successful despite violence that left a police officer in a coma and caused damage in France's third-largest city.

Horst Schmidt, FIFA's head of security, and Dominique Spinosi, his French organizing committee counterpart, stressed Thursday that all the violence happened outside stadiums.

The committee is responsible for security in and around the stadiums. The security in the cities themselves is the responsibility of the French authorities.

"We cannot take care of the problems which arise in cities, we can only act as advisers to the police," Schmidt said.

Spinosi played down the street battles between local youths and English fans in Marseille, calling it "an alcohol-related brawl." The city is still repairing damage from the fighting last month.

The English were mainly fans who drank too much and would not be considered hooligans by the common definition, Spinosi said.

The situation was different in Lens, where several hundred masked and well-organized German extremists fought with security forces. Thugs with an iron bar beat Officer David Nivel into a coma.

"There were 450 people that were known to be members of extremist groups from 30 cities in Germany that got together," she said. "What they found were security forces that controlled the situation."

Spinosi and Schmidt blamed the lack of international legislation for not being able to stop hooligans coming into France.

They both praised the cooperation with foreign police forces, especially officers specializing in identifying known hooligans.

"It's impossible to put 10,000 police around a group of people and put everyone in jail. You have to identify troublemakers and put them in court," Spinosi said.

The organizers said they chose to keep the venues open and the mood festive for the World Cup.

"If we made our French cities into bunkers we would miss the World Cup," Spinosi said.