In government, academia, journalism, and the private sector, Juliette Kayyem has served as a national leader in America’s homeland security efforts. She is the founder of Kayyem Solutions, LLC, providing strategic advice to a range of companies in technology, risk management, mega-event planning, venture capital and more. We asked this board member the International Centre for Sport Security for her thoughts on Rio 2016.
Q: Is Rio ready for the Olympics?
JK: It won’t be pretty, but the short answer is yes if you don’t pry too deep or expect too much. In these last few weeks, from both news reports and colleagues who are there, I have become more confident that the surge of resources — from the IOC, to neighboring countries, to national teams, and a focus by the US — will put all the bandaids on just in time. It is no way to run a major event, and the capacity for error — including an inability to adapt in the wake of changing threats, unanticipated pressures, etc — is high. The problem with this approach to putting the pieces together is that the one aspect of any complex system is the ability to pivot in the wake of changing situational awareness. I’m not sure Rio has built that into the system. For example, after Nice attacks, Rio had to factor in something it had not thought of before — a truck being used as WMD. Well, putting up barriers puts burdens on crowd control and movement, which has implications throughout the entire enterprise.
Q: They’ve announced that 85,000 security staff (2x 2012 London) will be deployed in Rio. Would love your thoughts on how you would see their deployment, the reality of training these people and the “security theater” we can expect?
JK: This is for show, but maybe that’s not so bad. In some ways, Rio needs to put on a show that it was the right choice, and the surge of these personnel is part of that show. But there is little confidence that these people are well trained and able to do the work necessary. This number, however, does include people from other countries who are coming with national teams and committees, and even in some cases high-profile athletes, who are more sophisticated.
We have spent a lot of time worried about Zika and the Rio Olympics. For most there, that’s the least of their problems; it’s winter there. Regular crime, physical violence, crowd control, cyber attacks and even terrorism rank much higher. And that takes more than bodies, but people who understand complex security management. I suspect what we will see is many Olympics; some sites will seem well protected, others less so.
Q: Is an incident-free Olympics realistic?
JK: I’ve spent a lot of my career managing complex sporting events for security and sit on the board of the International Center for Sports Security, a nonprofit committed to sharing best practices. t’s certainly the goal, but planners have to build in the possibility that anything/everything could happen. The beauty of a major event like the Olympics is that you want people to have fun, to flow, and to compete. The more severe the security apparatus, the more you take away from it. So while there is a lot of focus on prevention, there also has to be a strong response capability and public education plan.