2016 Summer Olympics – My Experience
The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are over, and I made it through to the end. Before the games started, it seemed like Brazil was a perfect storm of negativity and security issues. There was the ever-present risk of the Zika virus, political instability with Former President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings, the economy in a serious recession, public displeasure with amount of money spent on the games, the pollution in the waterways where events would be held, and of course the security risks associated with hosting the event in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Amazingly, and with a significant amount of luck, Brazil was able to ‘successfully’ complete its commitments. Surely there was a substantial amount of preparation and hard work done; don’t get me wrong. There was a large police presence, especially by the city’s Guarda Municipal, along with some of military units deployed throughout the venues with rifles and automatic weapons. The public transportation was the overall ‘star’ of the show receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from users.
There were issues along the way, however. Several groups and individuals associated with ISIS were arrested for possibly attempting to plan an attack. Reports were publicly made of individuals who were being looked for but had not been found. Three Swedish tourists took an Uber from the airport and along the way told the driver to stop the car so that they could take pictures. They were quickly kidnapped and taken to a nearby favela where they were released when the criminals heard the police were looking for them. There were numerous incidents of street robberies, rocks thrown at buses, stolen passports, and cameras, and even gunfire that affected the venues.
As part of the overall increase in security posture, the National Guard’s presence in the city was augmented. One vehicle containing three officers using the popular navigation application Waze ended up in a bad part of town where they were gunned down, and one officer was killed. This highlights just how dangerous Rio can be and why entering any ‘favela’ is a risky proposition.
Not to mention the now infamous Lochte incident in which a group of drunken individuals made some bad decisions at a gas station and afterward either lied or severely stretched the truth depending on whom you ask – my colleague, Stephen Anderson wrote this blog about it. One thing is for certain, had the USOC or one of their sponsors provided secure transportation or executive protection detail, the whole incident might have been completely avoided. Security has always been, pay a little now or a lot later. Those four sponsors, who have already dropped Lochte, are going to cost him millions.
As security professionals, we must always live by the mantra of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I believe those that participated in the Olympics can attest to this crucial fact. Most clients whom we supported, took the risks seriously and spent a lot of time informing themselves of what they were, where they were most prominent, and what the best practices were and how to mitigate them. Many engaged us to provide emergency evacuation plans due to the risk of terrorism. Also, some requested emergency response services and a hotline to guarantee that someone would be coming to help should there be an incident. We ensured our clients and their employees had secure transportation and executive protection support so that from a duty of care perspective they were able to offer the maximum effort in regards to keeping their people safe.
As they say, ‘knock on wood’ that we had no security related incidents with any of our clients. Those who are not in the security industry would say that perhaps Rio was not as dangerous as it was made out to be. However, the rest of us knew better and prepared for the worst.