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Rio unveils World Cup security nerve center

Brazil has unveiled a state-of-the-art command and control security centre in Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup.

RIO DE JANEIRO: The World Cup security command centre in Rio is for now just an empty room with a large interactive touchscreen table for emergency officials to monitor the situation during the tournament.

It is here on the third floor of the city's integrated command and control centre that security force officers, the state governor and the mayor of Rio will oversee operations during the month-long event.

"It will be the biggest security operation for a World Cup because there are 12 host cities in this continent-sized country," senior justice ministry official Humberto Freire de Barros told reporters.

The city is leaving nothing to chance, fully expecting large-scale protests during the tournament, which begins on June 12.

For, while Brazil is one of the most passionate football nations on the planet, this year's global fiesta coincides with intense street-level discontent over corruption and a flat-lining economy.

An estimated 600,000 foreign fans and about three million Brazilians are expected to criss-cross this huge country of more than 200 million people, during the tournament,

The federal government has warned it will not tolerate a repeat of last June's nationwide mass protests against falling living standards, graft and the stratospheric cost of staging the World Cup.

Integrated security management

During a tour of the command centre, Barros said Brazil invested more than $421 million in the operation, including $90 million in "the world's most advanced integrated security management scheme."

In a second floor area covering 10,600 square metres, a centre tasked with monitoring traffic gridlock and the high crime rate throughout greater Rio is already operational.

Inaugurated on May 31 shortly before the kickoff of World Cup warm-up the Confederations Cup, the centre is staffed by more than 600 police personnel, is equipped with a heliport and operates 24/7.

On giant video screens, the officers simultaneously track incidents in various neighborhoods of this sprawling metropolitan area, home to 12 million people.

"They get 20,000 to 22,000 phone calls a day, including 3,000 which lead to police intervention," said Edvaldo Novaes, a technology official at Rio's state security secretariat.

During the World Cup, each of the 12 host cities will have its own integrated command centre and all will be linked by video-conference, he added.

Confederations Cup lessons

Officials said lessons were learnt from the mass turmoil that marred the Confederations Cup and World Youth Day and Pope Francis' visit during World Youth Day, a major Catholic festival in July.

"We are conducting a permanent assessment. We are monitoring the demonstrations so that people can protest peacefully but also to prevent any act of vandalism," said Barros.

He added that the total number of security personnel that will be mobilized for the tournament across the country will be decided by late March.

Roberto Alzir, the Rio state official in charge of major events, said that since the Confederations Cup, police have also been monitoring social media networks.

"We knew that demonstrations were a threat, as during Rio+20 (the UN summit on sustainable development) in June 2012, but we had not anticipated this level of intensity," he conceded.

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