Security at Major Events has never been more challenging


An interesting article by

Andrew Cooke

Director – Security Operations at International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS)

The challenge of bidding for and hosting major international sport events is one that no city or country should take lightly. Significant time, effort and most importantly, resources, are required to host any major sport event successfully and the need to invest heavily in these precious commodities, even when planning to bid for an event, should not be underestimated.

The IOC’s proposals put forward as part of the ‘Olympic Agenda 2020’ process, as well as the ongoing questions surrounding 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process, have thrust the issue of how international federations and major events rights holders manage their bid process firmly into the public consciousness.

And as the demand from sponsors and commercial investors to reach out to new markets increases and more events are being created and hosted in more countries, it is clear that the demands of hosting a safe, secure and successful major sport event are growing in scale and complexity.

But what does this mean though for one of the most fundamental areas of hosting a major event – safety and security? As sport enters what is arguably a golden era for innovation and creativity, is the approach to safety and security moving at the same pace? What exactly do cities and countries need to consider when preparing themselves to bid for or host an event?

These are important questions that sport, as well as many cities and countries, have to ask themselves over the next few years and at the ICSS, we have committed ourselves to answer the questions currently being asked about how to effectively safeguard events, as well as identifying new innovative ways to protect them.

When bidding for an event like a FIFA World Cup or Olympic Games, one of the main challenges to safety and security is that the bidding phase usually covers a two year period, with these events normally awarded seven years before the event even takes place.

As a result, this presents a number of challenges when it comes to security. Throughout an event lifecycle, the length of time between bidding and delivery could see one – or even two – changes in government, not to mention significant changes in the threats facing the event or region. And with the lifespan of new technology usually lasting around three years, what may seem ‘innovative’ or new when planning security in the bid phase could be severely outdated by the time the event comes round.

As a result, the changing environment, particularly when it comes to security issues, can have a severe impact on the way major events are planned and budgeted for. Despite many in the industry recognising these challenges, whilst security is considered a fundamental area to host a successful event, all too often safety and security is introduced at the later stages of an event life cycle.

Over any event life cycle, new risks and threats emerge which must be planned and mitigated for at the earliest possible stage into planning competition and non-competition venues, as well as transport and infrastructure around these venues. This is an approach that we apply at the ICSS and strongly advise our partners and clients to incorporate security at the earliest possible stage into their bidding and hosting plan.

For any city or country looking to host an event, it is also essential to ensure a thorough due diligence process when it comes to securing their event and to allow some flexibility in your concept to adapt to any new threats that may emerge. At the same time, it is essential to ensure that proper contingencies are put in place to address the more immediate threats to your event.

One of the other emerging areas that cities and countries should consider is the way social media and digital technology is now used to safeguard major events. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have not only changed the way people consume sport and communicate with each other at major events but have also revolutionised the way intelligence is gathered and investigations are conducted around an event.

I also expect that over the next few years, the influence of technology on how major events are secured will only become stronger and predict that consumer and retail technology like google glasses, retina scanning and mobile apps will revolutionise the way we interact with security professionals at events.

The challenge of securing major international events has never been greater and the demands of hosting a safe, secure and successful major sport event are growing in scale and complexity.

At the ICSS, we believe first and foremost that safety and security at a major event should be a spectator service, whilst at the same time ensuring maximum security with minimum restrictions to the end user.

We also believe strongly that there is now clear need to develop a more global approach to safeguarding sport and major events and, whilst it is impossible to guarantee 100% security, a well-thought through security concept introduced right from the start of planning can save time, effort, finance and most importantly help to safeguard spectators.

Andrew Cooke is the Director Security Operations, the International Centre for Sport Security.