Travel Risk Management & Specialist Risk Consulting
2016 Summer Olympics
May 26th, 2016   Randy Haight

Is your company an Olympic Sponsor or do you have employees who are planning on traveling to Rio de Janeiro to attend the 2016 Summer Olympic Games? Have you developed any special security or contingency plans for your personnel? You can review earlier blogs I have written concerning Crisis Management/Crisis Response and Emergency Evacuations for general information about these issues. However, the Olympic Games in Brazil present several unique problems that I want to discuss.

Ever since the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, the threat of terrorists using The Olympic Games as a platform to gain a worldwide audience has loomed over every Olympics since. The good news is that Olympic planners have taken significant measures to elevate their ‘security presence’ for the Games; Rio de Janeiro is no exception. Reports indicate that over 85,000 law enforcement and military personnel will be brought into Rio de Janeiro to implement an impressive security plan for the Games.

The transportation infrastructure in Rio is already over-burdened and is expected to worsen during the Olympics. The city is rushing to complete additional Metro and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) bus lanes to support the anticipated crush of people who will be in attendance. Specially designated Olympic routes are planned for roadways, and ONLY those vehicles with a special Olympic Vehicle Access Pass may use these lanes.

Rio de Janeiro is a large city, and key Olympic venues are spread throughout the city in four key areas. The main Olympic Venue (Olympic Park/International Broadcast Zone/Athletes Village/ Pavilions/Swim Center) is located in the southern part of Rio known as Barra de Tijuca. The Olympic Stadium is located miles away in the Maracanã District, and other events are taking place in the Copacabana and Deodorro areas. What this means is that getting to and from a venue is going to be a challenge. In the event of an emergency, getting your personnel out of the affected area is going to be an even greater challenge, particularly if you do not have a plan.

Importantly, your plan should identify areas near each venue where your personnel can be directed to “Shelter in Place.” It may be awhile before you can get to your personnel following a critical incident. If you are not familiar with Rio de Janeiro, and in particular, the key venues, trying to identify Shelter in Place locations will be impossible. In fact, if you haven’t been to these areas in the last thirty days, your information on Shelter in Place locales is already outdated. Why? Because demolition and construction in some of these areas has changed the landscape considerably. Roads that appear on current internet mapping programs are no longer in existence. Buildings which you may wish to designate Shelter in Place zones, and the ability to access them, may have changed due to ongoing construction.

Developing an Emergency Evacuation Plan for your personnel for the 2016 Olympic Games can still be accomplished. However, you should consider contracting a company that has actual on-the-ground resources and intimate knowledge about the Rio de Janeiro area. Failure to do so may have disastrous effects upon your plan, and ultimately, the safety of your personnel.

Have you contracted a transportation provider? Your plan is going to require dedicated vehicles that can get to your personnel. There are several reliable car service providers in Brazil that you may wish to consider. If you are going to need larger vehicles such as Sprinter Vans, shuttles, etc., you need to obtain these resources NOW.

Once you have a viable plan, who is going to ‘execute’ it on behalf of your personnel? Do you have qualified personnel capable of conducting an emergency evacuation? Are they intimately familiar with the city and Olympic venues? How are they going to gain access to the area? Do they speak Portuguese? Do they have emergency medical training and equipment?

Consider using a reliable company that specializes in emergency evacuations and crisis assistance from overseas locations. Ensure they have proven security capabilities and a record of past performance. Rio de Janeiro presents a unique challenge to security planners. Therefore, it is essential that your plan is developed by a team that has the ‘right stuff’. Ultimately, the safety and security of your personnel should be the deciding factor in how you prepare for Rio this August.