At the Frontline: U.S. Olympic Committee CSO Larry Buendorf

CSO Larry Buendorf discusses keeping America’s athletes safe at the Olympics

Next month, a delegation of nearly 1,200 U.S. athletes, coaches and support staff will make their way to Beijing, China, for the Olympics games. Behind the scenes, United States Olympic Committee Chief Security Officer Larry Buendorf will be keeping a close eye on the games, making sure that the four years he’s spent making security preparations with local authorities keep the Olympians and their handlers safe.

Buendorf became the USOC’s Chief Security Officer in 1993, following a career of more than 20 years with the U.S. Secret Service. While working for the Secret Service’s Presidential Protection Division, Buendorf thwarted an assassination attempt against President Gerald Ford in September 1975 when Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to pull a gun on the president.

In addition to planning and implementing security measures for U.S. Olympic delegations, Buendorf is also responsible for the safety of athletes and staff at the USOC’s three training centers, located in Chula Vista, Calif., Lake Placid, N.Y., and the committee’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In the midst of preparations for the upcoming summer games, Buendorf spoke with the about the unique security challenges posed by the Olympics and what it takes to keep America’s athletes safe.

What are some of your biggest challenges as chief security officer for the USOC?

I guess the biggest challenge is across the board, ensuring the security of our athletes whether they’re here domestically or whether they’re away internationally. It’s trying to stay on top of all the world issues that are going on, crises that are happening worldwide that might affect where our athletes are traveling. So that’s a constant pressure of trying to keep a finger on world activities.

Do you have a particular fear or is there one thing that scares you the most about the athletes’ travel?

Well, actually, I feel pretty good when I get the support of our U.S. embassies around the world that pay attention to our athletes when they arrive in country. There's a comfort level there knowing that I’m not there with them, but that there’s someone representing the United States that has an interest in those athletes that are in country.

Fears, as you know, are always there in today’s world. You have the fear of a terrorist act and you don’t know where it might come from. There’s no way for anyone to prevent a terrorist attack unless we have the intelligence ahead of time. That’s always in the back of your mind that they’re out and if they decide to direct their interest towards sport, then it might change our modus operandi.

How would you compare the scope of your position to that of other security officers/directors in other sporting industries?

Those directors or chiefs of security of other major sports, their responsibilities are very similar to what I do. They are coordinators if you will, liaisons to local law enforcement and authorities that might be providing support. They are there to ensure that that event goes off and that everybody’s doing what they should be doing. No different than what I do, except I have a lot more sports that I’m trying to cover. It’s not just one sport, it’s several sports and they all might be occurring at different locations, not just one location and that’s the big difference.

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