At any Olympic-connected event, security is priority No. 1. It has to be that way, given realities in the world as it is and, of course, the history of 1972 and Munich.

This means certain obvious things — police and airport-style metal detectors at the entry to any venue, for instance.

From event to event, however, there can be an enormous difference — in tone, manner and style — in how that security is implemented. It can be brusque, even bruising, law enforcement bristling with visible firearms. Or it can be low-key, even unobtrusive.

Here at the 2018 IJF world championships in Baku, the security presence is obvious. But it’s also discreet and unreservedly polite.

This is all the more remarkable because English is the primary language of international sport and almost none of the law enforcement officers stationed both inside and out the National Gymnastics Arena, site of the judo championships, speak more than a few words of English.

If that.

To begin, the officers stationed at the mag-and-bag stations are dressed not in police uniforms but in black business suits with white dress shirts and black ties.

Please, they say, asking that your phone and other items go into plastic bins and then the conveyor belt, just like at the airport.

Thank you, they say, when the process is done.

If that is the extent of the English that some of them know — not to be dismissive here in any way, only appreciative — it speaks well to the effort to have learned that much. A little bit goes a long way in such interactions.

All this is very deliberate, said a senior security officer who asked that his name not be used. First and foremost, he said, “All security officers try to execute their work at a high level,” he said, but, “They are working in a polite and hospitable way.”

Compare: At the Sochi Games in 2014, the place was jammed with soldiers in uniform toting very visible guns. To generalize about the attitude: a lot of suspicious, military-style glaring at you.

Same in Salt Lake City in 2002, the first post-9/11 Games. To generalize about the attitude: a lot of suspicious, military-style glaring at you.

Last spring in Lausanne, Switzerland, as Paris was lobbying for the 2024 Summer Games, the recently elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, paid a visit to the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, at the Olympic Museum. The museum sits midway up a hill. At the bottom of the hill, reporters seeking access to the event were — under the supervision of watchful police —separated from their equipment, which was spread out on the concrete in the hot sun. There, police dogs sniffed each and every bag while the members of the press went through an airport-style metal detector and were patted down. Only after all of that were reporters and equipment reunited, and the press escorted up the hill. Then it started to rain. The press was kept outside, huddling under a covered patio, while Bach and Macron finished up their meeting. Then, and only then, was it deemed acceptable for reporters and Macron to be in the same room — for a very brief news conference.

Here, the president of the Azerbaijan republic, Ilham Aliyev, accompanied by his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, and family members, attended the championship opening ceremony. Naturally, the presidential security delegation was on hand, and two floors below — as fans milled about the concourse — agents formed a cordon around the elevator leading to the VIP box.

No one was allowed up. “Patience,” one of the agents, dressed in a blue checkered short-sleeved shirt, said with a smile. And that was that.

By Alan Abrahamson is an award-winning sportswriter, best-selling author and in-demand television analyst. In 2010 he launched his own website, 3 Wire Sports ( From 2006 until 2010, Alan served as columnist at, and For the 17 years before that, he was a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times; he spent his first nine years at the newspaper covering news and the final eight sports, mostly the Olympic movement. The 2016 Rio Games marked his ninth Olympics, Summer and Winter; he is a member of the International Olympic Committee's press committee.

See also
JudoWorld2018: Top 5 Pictures around the tatami

01. Oct. 2018 / The Baku World Judo Championships 2018, Azerbaijan are over, but we still have zillions of images in our ...

JudoWorld2018: Top 5 Action Pictures

01. Oct. 2018 / The Baku World Judo Championships 2018, Azerbaijan are over, but we still have zillions of images in our ...

The Technicians' Corner
Technical Analysis by Lucie Decosse

27. Sep. 2018 / Lucie Décosse (FRA) shouldn't be presented..


27. Sep. 2018 / The Baku World Judo Championships 2018, individuals, have come to an end. Relive the emotion of the 14 ...

Meet Babir

26. Sep. 2018 / You can’t have a big sporting event without a mascot now, can you? The 2018 IJF World Championships ...

The Technicians' Corner
The Technical Analysis of Jeon Ki-Young

23. Sep. 2018 / On the fourth day of competition at the Baku World Judo Championships 2018, Azerbaijan, we asked Jeon ...

Baku Postcard
Baku over the many, many centuries

23. Sep. 2018 / It rained Sunday in Baku, a reminder that we live in a natural world. Sunday, moreover, marked the first ...

Baku Postcard: Martyrs’ Lane

22. Sep. 2018 / Ilham Allahverdiyev was 27 years old when he was shot and killed during what, here in Azerbaijan, is known ...

Baku World Judo Championships officially opened by the President of Azerbaijan

21. Sep. 2018 / On September 21, the Baku World Judo Championships 2018 were officially opened by the highest authority ...

The Technicians' Corner
JudoWorlds2018: The Technical Analysis of Neil Adams

21. Sep. 2018 / All judo enthusiasts were eagerly awaiting this second day of competition at the Baku World Judo Championships ...

Meet the Green Brigade

21. Sep. 2018 / If you’re watching the 2018 Judo Worlds, be it live or via TV or even livestreaming, you’ve probably ...

Daria Bilodid: The Youth Flag Bearer

21. Sep. 2018 / If you cross Daria Bilodid (UKR), it's a safe bet that you will not believe your eyes on learning that ...

Vienna will host the 2021 World Championships

18. Sep. 2018 / A few days prior to the start of the competition at the 2018 Judo World Championships in Baku, the International ...

Baku Postcard

17. Sep. 2018 / On the eve of the Judo World Championships, discover Alan Abrahamson's Baku postcard. Alan Abrahamson ...

#JudoWorlds2018: Get Ready for the Show

11. Sep. 2018 / The 2018 Judo World Championships are approaching. Discover or watch again all the promo films that the ...

#JudoWorlds2018: 10 Days to Go

10. Sep. 2018 / 10 days, 10 short days before the start of the 2018 Judo World Championships taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan ...

Judo for the World
Azerbaijan, a Country of Fire... and Judo

07. Sep. 2018 / On September 20th, the Judo World Championships will start in Azerbaijan in the heart of the capital Baku. ...

Part 1: Teams A-F
Complete Guide to #JudoWorlds2018

06. Sep. 2018 / Part 1 of our Complete Guide to #JudoWorlds2018 covers Teams A-F and 270 judoka from 46 countries!

Judo Worlds 2018: The countdown has started

03. Sep. 2018 / September has finally arrived and the clock continues to run while there is less than 20 days left before ...

Ilham Zakiyev: An Exemplary Colossus

13. Aug. 2018 / The man is a true colossus, of those who impose respect just by entering a room and whose sports record ...

Elnur Mammadli: From Reality to Dream

14. Jun. 2018 / Elnur Mammadli (AZE) was one of those children who started judo around the age of seven and who quickly ...

A simple hero: Nazim Huseynov

29. May. 2018 / Nazim Huseynov..This name may not tell you much..


22. Mar. 2018 / In May 2018, the Olympic qualification will start at the Hohhot Grand Prix in China, and it is certain ...

20 key storylines for #JudoWorlds2017 with 20 days to go

08. Aug. 2017 / 20 for 20 – The IJF presents 20 key storylines for #JudoWorlds2017 as Tuesday 8 August marks 20 days ...

Baku Grand Slam 2017, Azerbaijan – DAY TWO

11. Mar. 2017 / All change on day two as all nine gold medals have now been won by different countries at #JudoBaku2017

IJF and SOCAR reception launches Paris Grand Slam 2017

10. Feb. 2017 / The International Judo Federation (IJF) and SOCAR welcomed distinguished members of the judo family on ...

$50,000 award for end-of-year world leaders

31. Jan. 2017 / The International Judo Federation has awarded all 14 judoka who ended 2016 as the world number ones with ...

25 champions look ahead to #JudoParis2017 with 25 days to go

17. Jan. 2017 / 1..

Judo embarks on positive road to Tokyo 2020 and beyond

09. Jan. 2017 / Judo ushered in a new area on Friday and Saturday in the 2018 World Championships host city of Baku in ...

Live Twitter Q and A with IJF President Marius Vizer

06. Jan. 2017 / IJF President Marius Vizer will be answering your questions on Saturday 7 January in a live Twitter question ...