How to Secure the Olympics

A step-by-step guide to managing risk for high-profile events.

The Torino Olympic Winter Games are now behind us, and the companies that were involved in the Games are winding down from nearly a month of significant security precautions. Planning security for special events like these—and other high-visibility consumer conferences—requires a tailored approach that balances effective, non-excessive security measures against a realistic assessment of likely threats.


Choose the Right Measures

From year to year or event to event, organizations may experience more or less risk depending on venue size and the location of the event, the financial stability and executive profile of the company, and the profile of the event participants. A one-size-fits-all approach to security fails to consider the very aspects of the event that make it unique. Instead, companies need a customized event security plan.

Appropriate security measures offer three critical benefits:

1) They deter would-be disruptors.

2) They provide preventive measures that will intercept disruptions.

3) They prepare everyone to respond appropriately in an emergency.


Here we offer some insight into the types of threats businesses should consider and how they can plan for, manage, and respond to risks at special events.


Who Wants a Piece of You?

The first step is to identify potential threats to the event, separating likely threats from perceived and imagined ones. With an event such as the Olympics, the threats are often well-publicized. It is a high-profile event, outdoors and subject to weather conditions, with many VIPs in attendance. Groups with a political agenda—both terrorists and social protest organizations—may use the Olympic Games to make their voices heard.

At other types of business events, threats may not be as publicized or obvious. Threats may come from different sources, such as hecklers, activist groups, or disgruntled shareholders, employees or customers.

Security planners should ask the following questions to define possible threats from disruptors:

1) Who would benefit from the failure of the event if an incident were to occur?

2) Who would benefit from a mere disruption of this event?

3) What interest would any groups with a history of violence or disruption have in the event as an arena to publicize their cause?


Once they've answered these questions, security planners can qualify the threats in terms of likelihood and reasonableness and create a security plan to protect against them without causing too much inconvenience for attendees.


Four Components of Security Planning

Assessing the likely risks is just the first step in successful planning for event security. There are also other important security plan components to consider. You should evaluate and implement these components with four objectives in mind:

1) Deterrence: the degree to which a particular security measure will deter a would-be disruption.

2) Prevention: the effectiveness of a security measure in intercepting an attempted security breach or preventing certain assaults or disruptions.

3) Environmental Assessment: the cumulative effect of the various security measures, which will determine the general level of safety. Only through an honest assessment of the level of security at the event can you properly respond to threats communicated during the event.

4) Emergency Preparedness: the actions to take in various emergencies and the protocols of communication and tactics for such actions.


Keep the Bad Guys Out

One way to minimize the risk of a disruption is to closely manage access to the event. With the Olympics, this was difficult, because the Games were open to the paying public. However, security planners can restrict access to corporate-sponsored events or take other measures to restrict employee interaction with people who have not been pre-screened. The nature of the event will dictate the access options, which will in turn affect the security measures. The security team should understand the potential financial, reputational, and safety concerns important to the organization as they plan their security measures.

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