TSG IntelBrief: Key Considerations Regarding Safety and Security In The Initial Stages of Major Event
January 5, 2012

Key Considerations Regarding Safety and Security In The Initial Stages of Major Event

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When does security and safety planning begin for a Major Event? In many cases – especially those with a global interest such as the World Cup Soccer and Olympic Games – this vital step begins as early as bidding stages of these events.

Jim McGee and Ray Mey, Senior Program Managers for The Soufan Group (TSG), have been involved in Major Event Security planning and operations for eighteen years. They have been directly involved in planning for, and directing, the integrated security and safety programs that are so critically important to the successful staging of these events.

In events like World Cup Soccer, a comprehensive security package is vitally important to the successful presentation of a host city/country bid. In the case of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the hopeful organizers recognized this reality and retained TSG’s Ray Mey for a three-year period leading up to the Olympic Committee’s decision. During that time, Mr. Mey played a leading role in constructing an impressive security plan that materially supported Chicago’s highly competitive bid before the selection committee.

Critical to developing a strong security plan is having people involved who possess the combination of a successful track record of performance and an in-depth expertise in this unique area. The Chicago bid was under the supervision of Mr. Doug Arnot, one of the best Major Event planners and managers in the business. When Chicago did not get the nod for the 2016 Games, the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, quickly tapped Doug to help set the right course for the London Games and make sure the planning and operations for this event was being led by someone who had the skill and experience necessary to get the job done. When you are dealing with a multimillion dollar operation like the Olympic Games, you only have one shot to do it right. The consequences of poor planning – led by inexperienced and ill-prepared individuals – extends beyond the potential financial loss; with a worldwide audience closely watching, the loss of prestige can be equally grievous.

Despite the fact that Chicago was ultimately not selected to host the 2016 Games, the strategic security plan and structure that was put in place for the city’s impressive bid far surpassed the plan that was set in place for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002. This is of particular importance given its distinction as the first Olympic Games to be staged after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of an era when the emphasis on security and safety was greater than ever. Ultimately, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics became the template for Major Event security planning in the United States and around the world.

There are many factors that go into selecting a World Cup or Olympic host city/country. The ability to actually host the event – and effectively orchestrate the myriad athletic, social, and political activities that are inherent pieces of any modern day Olympics – while also ensuring the affair unfolds under the protective shield of a comprehensive and proactive security and safety infrastructure is closely tied to the substance behind the planning set forth in the security portion of the bid. Essentially, what a potential host says it can or will do does not always hold up under the considerable and often unpredictable pressures of the real world. Furthermore, the concrete steps taken in the early stages once the event has been awarded is critically important to the ability to provide a safe and secure environment in which to host the event.

Many factors can interfere with delivering a reliable security and safety operation to support a Major Event. Let’s examine a few of the critical components that must be in place to insure that Major Event Security planning and operations are a success:

1. Begin Planning Early!

Probably the most important element of a successful security plan is starting early. The Security portion of the bid should clearly articulate the structure and strategy that will be implemented in the planning and operation of the event. If the information and presentation of the security plan in the bid is a “paper tiger” and lacks the political will and budgetary commitment it requires, there will certainly be a lot more work to do and the planning process will be a continual uphill battle. Hopefully, the selection committee has adequately scrutinized the bid to determine whether or not the host city/country can and will actually deliver what they propose.

Let’s assume that the host city can and will deliver on what was set forth in the bid. What now?

2. Unified Strategic Vision and Commitment

First of all, what is meant by the term Unified? In the context of Major Event Security, Unified means that all stakeholders who have a responsibility and authority to deliver safety and security should be at the planning table. One must have the authority to make decisions and to be given funding to carry out responsibilities pertaining to safety and security supporting a Major Event. The following example demonstrates how these two are inextricably linked together.

In 1996, many US Federal agencies came to the table to support the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In the end, there were so many federal agencies sharing responsibility for security – with many competing interests at the state and local levels – that no one knew who was in charge. Even the military, which pursuant to the Posse Comitatus Act is barred by law from conducting law enforcement actions in the United States, thought it was in charge. At a spring 1996 meeting in Washington, DC, the FBI hosted an interagency meeting to address the topic of establishing clear, and unified, lines of authority and responsibility before the beginning of the Atlanta Olympic Games. While listening to a presentation that described the many agencies involved and the complex cross-section of interests relating to security planning for the Games, Vice President Al Gore interrupted the presenter and stated, “I just want to know who is in charge!” At that point, there was far too little in the way of accountability and far too much funding spread across too many agencies. It was not surprising that later on, when the bomb went off in Centennial Park, agencies were blaming one another for shortfalls in security planning and responsiveness.

What is the solution to such a dilemma?

In 1998, a Presidential Decision Directive was signed by President Clinton that assigned authority and responsibility for providing federal counterterrorism security support to the Olympic Games and major events of national significance to three federal agencies: the United States Secret Service (USSS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This action clearly vested these three organizations with lead authority and responsibility for providing federal security and safety support to such events, including the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Were there other federal agencies involved?

ABSOLUTELY! Nonetheless, each of the these federal agencies came under the leadership of one of the three designated lead agencies in all relevant areas, to include budget and planning. Further, overall responsibilities were divided between the three lead agencies in the following manner: the USSS would provide Physical Security Support; the FBI would focus on Crisis Management, Intelligence and Investigation; and FEMA would be responsible for the Consequence Management support subsequent to an incident. This definitive structure greatly simplified planning, responsibility, authority and accountability. Even then, there were remaining jurisdictional issues that caused confusion.

Each city where a venue was located asserted it was in charge of the event based on jurisdictional authority. This was further complicated because, concurrent with each city’s assertions, county and state entities similarly claimed that jurisdictional authority gave them overall responsibility. This overlapping jurisdictional quagmire demonstrates the need for laws to be enacted that clearly delegate authority and responsibility for the event and, especially, which stakeholders will be formally “in charge” of security. It is much easier to put a structure and strategy for event security in place early in the planning process rather than waiting until conflicts arise. In the end, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games were a huge success and, as detailed previously, the security plan and operation supporting this event were viewed as a template for future major events of this magnitude.

What else should we consider in terms of UNIFIED?

Since many events are being run by an event organizing committee, security planning must be addressed in concert with this committee. This was not the case in Atlanta, where public safety agencies and the event organizing committee did not meaningfully collaborate in planning for the event. There may be sensitivities pertaining to the certain security-related information, and some agencies may try to cite this as the reason they are unable to participate in an integrated security planning effort. However, in most instances neither the information nor the activities in the security realm are classified and or even of a sensitive nature; as a result, the “need to know” argument is largely in valid. The bottom line is that the Event Committee and the Public Safety Infrastructure in the host city or country have to be extensively coordinated and completely integrated. This will result in a UNIFIED STRATEGIC VISION that carefully balances the authorities, responsibilities and requirements from all aspects of the event and its security considerations.

Once we have a vision as to the need to have a security plan that effectively delegates responsibility and clearly assigns authorities for the planning effort, what should be the next step? In order to fulfill the security planning responsibility for a major event, there must be a structure. This leads to the last critical piece:

3. Who is in Charge of Security Planning?

As noted in the last section, there are many stakeholders in a major event. Once the authority and responsibilities have been delegated, the leaders must come together to create a coherent planning structure that is inclusive, yet not hindered by too many constituents. The key will be to set up an efficient structure that allows for work to get done – reporting to all those entities with a relevant role – and to create an Executive Command Authority that can provide the necessary leadership. This must include the authority to approve plans and budgetary requests. Once these three components have been initiated, the security supporting a major event will begin take shape and the overall effort move forward in a systematic and ultimately productive fashion.

In the next article, we will explore different kinds of Major Event Security planning organizations, as well as the factors that can create an optimal environment for shepherding the planning effort.


The Soufan Group provides expert on-site consulting, planning, and training services to assist clients in addressing the complex security challenges of major event management. These services are produced and delivered by highly experienced subject matter experts, each of whom has provided major event security on a global scale for decades using a methodology proven successful at the world’s most notable events, to include multiple Olympic Games.

Our suite of Major Event Security support services include developing tailored concepts of operations, performing comprehensive risk assessments, crafting detailed emergency action plans, and designing an array of practical exercises to effectively test system and personnel readiness.

In addition, we offer Periodic Threat Assessments that provide updates on transnational, regional and local threats based upon all-source intelligence enhanced by state-of-the-art analysis. For more details on our in-depth individual and group briefings, we invite you to contact The Soufan Group at reports@soufangroup.com.


Raymond S. Mey is a Senior Program Manager of The Soufan Group. Mr. Mey’s distinguished 23-year career with the FBI included assignments with 3 FBI Field Offices, FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ) Counterterrorism Division, and 4 overseas Legal Attache’ Offices. He is also a veteran of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT).

James A. McGee is a Senior Program Manager for The Soufan Group. He has twenty-five combined years of law enforcement experience, twenty-one years as a Special Agent with the FBI. During his FBI tenure, Mr. McGee’s assignments included 4 FBI Field Offices, Legal Attache’ Office in Greece, the Critical Incident Response Group-Hostage Rescue Team, and FBI Headquarters.

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The Soufan Group’s world-class network of intelligence analysts produces specialized geopolitical and risk assessment products tailored to the unique needs of our clients in the public and private sectors. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your requirements and explore how our intelligence services can assist you in achieving your strategic objectives. For more information, please contact us at: info@soufangroup.com

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This is an excerpt from the full report released to clients.

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