Basel Fair Will Tighten Security

Basel Fair management will “definitely have stricter security controls” at the Basel 2002 World Watch and Jewelry Show and at future shows, officials tell JCK. Concerns about tightening security were sparked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America and the U.S. military response in early October as well as the Sept. 27 killing of 14 people and the wounding of another 18 during a local parliamentary session in Zug, Switzerland. Those were done by a man armed with an assault rifle and a grenade.

The watch and jewelry trade fair, the world’s largest, is held annually in Basel, Switzerland. It attracts more than 85,000 visitors from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas (8% from North America); some 2,000 exhibitors; and thousands of exhibitors’ staff members.

Messe Basel, the fair’s management, which operates more than two dozen trade shows annually, met Sept. 18 to discuss tightening security for all future shows, including the next watch and jewelry fair (April 4-11, 2002). The show’s security staff and the Basel region’s police also have been meeting.

The watch and jewelry show already has a high level of security. Up to 30% of Basel’s police force, both uniformed and plain clothed, patrol the show, and the Fair annually spends $60,000 to $120,000 to add equipment and upgrade security systems and strategies, says Ueli Born, the Basel Fair’s longtime security chief.

“Most people probably won’t be aware” of the tighter security, says Born, nor are they supposed to be. “We don’t give details on in-house security,” he says.

Some details can be mentioned. The show’s security people and the local police have compiled a list of persons who might try to make trouble for American, Jewish, or Arab visitors. There will be more police controls and patrols at Swiss airports, including the Basel airport, and at all French and German border checks, which are only a mile or two from the fairgrounds.

At Basel 2002, registered journalists must have show-provided photo ID badges to be admitted to the show and exhibitors’ events. For Basel 2003, the registration/security system will expand to include all show visitors.

Basel show officials also are debating whether to add metal detectors and security entry checkpoints similar to those used at airports and public buildings. One Basel show tradition won’t change, however: The public will continue to be admitted (with a ticket) into the watch and jewelry fair, say show officials.

How much tougher the Basel Fair’s security gets “depends on the political situation at the time,” Born says, “but we can tighten security up to the day before a show begins if necessary, as we have done in past years, because we work closely with the [Basel] police.”