Since September 11, there has been a new emphasis on security at entertainment venues. Comparable situations in the past can offer some useful parallels.
Security at the Olympics, for instance, has been a front-burner issue for decades. The tragedy of Munich ’72 – when members of the Black September Palestinian terrorist group infiltrated the Olympic Village, kidnapping and murdering 11 Israeli athletes – forever changed the face of security at the Olympic Games.
Atlanta, Ga., thought it had covered all the security bases for the 1996 Olympics. Yet, a pipe-bomb exploded in Centennial Park during the Games, killing one person and leading to an immediate overhaul of security procedures.
Just a few weeks ago, in early February, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Even before September 11, security for Salt Lake was a major focus,” said journalist Gary Smart in a December 29, 2001, article for The Advertiser, an Australian paper. “Initially the U.S. government allocated $200 million, with the state of Utah and the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee contributing another $70 million. But the events of September 11 saw the government tip in another $40 million, taking the total to $310 million, establishing the Salt Lake Games as the most protected sporting event in history.”
In the December 23, 2001, Washington Post, writer Amy Shipley noted, “At the 2002 Winter Games, Secret Service agents will patrol on skis and in snowmobiles. Ticket holders will attend events in venues surrounded by 10-foot razor-wire fences, monitored by motion detectors, manned by rifle-carrying National Guardsmen, and entered through metal detectors. They will occasionally notice the skies above Salt Lake City cleared of all air traffic – except for patrolling fighter jets. Perhaps the biggest change is a fundamental one: The Olympic Games, designated in 1998 as a National Special Security Event, are the first to fall under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
If tragedy strikes in or near an entertainment facility or event – whether it is a natural disaster, an accident, an infrastructure breakdown, or an act of terror – the strength of the organization and its ability to cope will receive their most severe test and scrutiny. Should the unthinkable occur, management and staff have to have thought about it, prepared for it, and practiced for it.
International events are especially vulnerable to international tensions and unexpected outcomes. The 1991 GuIf War, coupled with a fear of possible action from the Basque separatist movement, affected preparations for two world-class events in Spain in 1992: the Olympics in Barcelona and the Universal Expo in Seville. Some nations threatened to cancel their participation in the expo.
Gordon Linden, manager of project development services for the Oakland, Calif., office of Parsons Corp., managed construction for three of the Olympic Villages at Barcelona 1992, which accommodated nearly 20,000 persons and included restaurants, accreditation services, security facilities, resident centers, National Olympic Committee offices, press and media facilities, movies and video projection theaters, an art gallery, a bowling alley, and numerous commercial facilities. He also consulted on the construction of the Olympic Villages for Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004.
According to Linden, the first step is to conduct a vulnerability analysis. “Identify the possible problems and their sources. Look at your physical plant; do a site survey. Then prioritize. Don’t just throw money or technology at it. Come up with a security plan and an emergency security plan. Consider the vulnerability of the system itself.” On the operational side: “People are often more important in enforcing security
than physical barriers or technology. Sometimes it is mainly a matter of sensitizing people to look for things and then act on them, or report them.”
Barcelona’s preparations, says Linden, “included an enormous bunker, built on the perimeter of the main Olympic Village by the police and staffed with tanks.” The Village itself was completely encircled by a double fence. Closed-circuit televisions monitored the facility, and, according to Linden, the Mediterranean fleet of the United States armed forces was on alert, in addition to the Spanish military. Three weeks prior to opening, inspectors conducted a full security sweep that included the Village apartments and infrastructure plus any nearby buildings that might harbor potential threats.
Other security measures at Barcelona ’92 included controlled access gates with bar-code readers to check accreditation; designated entrances for employees separate from those for supplies and garbage removal; mirrors wheeled under vehicles; and metal detectors. To minimize traffic during the event, much of the food was provided in nonperishable forms and brought in ahead of time. The apartments were designed as market-rate housing, to be later sold, so a number of the security measures were temporary to the Games. Similar measures were applied to the smaller villages as well.