Sikhs can carry ceremonial daggers into venues

Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:07am EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - Sikh athletes and spectators will be allowed to wear ceremonial daggers into London Olympic venues next year, despite the intense security arrangements, as part of a multi-faith approach to the Games.

"We want to make sure the Games are accessible to everyone," a spokesperson for organizers LOCOG said on Monday.

"The policy has been set by the LOCOG security team, who have liaised with wider stakeholders, and is part of our multi-faith approach.

"The Kirpan (ceremonial dagger) will be presented at security, but it will not be unsheathed. Wearing the Kirpan alongside the other articles of faith is both an everyday occurrence for Sikhs and an important part of observing their faith."

Organizers said the Kirpan would have to be worn beneath clothing and Sikhs carrying it would also have to demonstrate the four other articles of their faith that they must wear at all times.

Britain boasts the largest Sikh community outside of India with 336,000 followers recorded in a 2001 census, although Sikh community figures say the real figure is more than double that.

Organizers have recruited 193 chaplains, representing nine faiths, to assist some 17,000 athletes and officials attending the Games as well as up to 200,000 staff and volunteers and 20,000 media.

The International Olympic Committee requests facilities for five faiths - Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists -- but London 2012 organizers have added Sikh, Zoroastrian, Jain and Baha'i to the list.

The Olympics, starting on July 27 next year, represent the biggest security challenge since World War Two for a country that remains on high alert for a terrorist attack.

Defense Minister Philip Hammond said this month that all necessary measures would be taken, including possibly the use of surface to air missiles, to defend against an airborne attack.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Meadows; For Reuters sports blog Left Field go to: blogs.reuters.com/sport)

 
<p>A Sikh ceremonial dagger, known as a kirpan, is seen during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 2, 2006. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>