The crackdown is on betting syndicates who attempt to bribe athletes into fixing events
11:52am UK, Sunday January 01, 2012
Britain is to mount an unprecedented security operation to stop betting syndicates bribing athletes at this summer’s Olympics.
A dedicated police intelligence unit is to be introduced tasked with identifying illegal betting practices and attempts to fix events.
Athletes are already understood to have been approached by bookmakers, largely in the Indian sub-continent, to influence the outcome of their competitions.
Olympics minister Hugh Robertson has said event fixing poses a bigger threat to the London Games‘ reputation than doping.
The unit will be headed by the Metropolitan Police and work with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Interpol to track suspicious gambling activity abroad, according to The Sunday Times.
The International Olympic Committee has also created a unit to monitor the global betting market for unusually large wagers on particular events or competitors.
Mr Robertson told the paper: “You cannot underestimate the threat this poses because the moment that spectators start to feel that what they are seeing is not a true contest, that is when spectators stop turning up and the whole thing turns to pieces.
“At some stage over the next two or three years, we will have some other sort of betting scandal in some sport. I just hope it’s not at the Olympics.”
He said Western betting authorities were “well set up” to spot illegal betting activities, but criticised regulation in the Far East and sub-continent.
“If you look at the most high-profile incident – the Pakistani cricketers (caught spot-fixing) at Lord’s – the issue is not of betting syndicates in this part of the world,” Mr Robertson said.
“It is illegal betting syndicates in the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere, where huge sums of money change hands.”
A spokesman from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the unit “will be able to obtain and draw on information and intelligence from various sources including the Betting Commission, national Olympic commissions and Interpol on any suspicious betting patterns or intelligence surrounding match-fixing.”
The spokesman also said people will be able to use an “email hotline” to report any suspicious activity they come across.