Michael Pirrie, Executive Adviser, London 2012, writing on 7 February in relation to iSportconnect TV’s planned Sochi 2014 Special Discussion with top professionals
Security of the athletes and spectators must be the number one priority in Sochi, as well it was for London, Vancouver, Beijing, Torino and before that Athens and many other Games. We saw the 1972 Munich Games become a major turning point for Games security, and this was reinforced again at the Atlanta 1996 Games and after 9/11.
We are now in a global era of terrorism where every host city and event is a potential target. It is the responsibility of every organising committee to prepare accordingly, and take all precautions necessary. However, you can still have great security and a great Games time atmosphere if you plan properly. Security can be designed into the venues and surrounding infrastructure and multilayered and can be almost invisible, but there will always be some inconvenience with airport-style security but this is a small price to pay. And while the much heralded terrorist threat has been framed in terms of suicide bomber attacks, or hidden explosive devices and other such threats, the spectre of computer system breakdowns or cyber attacks poses a major threat and can cause massive confusion and chaos as we saw on a lesser scale at the Atlanta Games when the press operations results systems collapsed.
Games organisers must also balance safety and security with a festive, party atmosphere inside the venues and surrounding public spaces in the host city and beyond, enabling the triumphs and achievements of the athletes to be celebrated in the Medals Plazas and other places. The Olympic Games is the world's foremost sporting event; it is not a security event. Security will continue to be an ever growing feature of future Games if sport is to be truly global, and the Olympic Games is to go to new territories and move out of the comfort zones of western Europe and North America. This globalisation of sport into new markets however must never be at the expense of the athletes and so security will continue to be a major element in the staging of major international events.
No security operation is perfect, even for those that are orchestrated on the scale of the Olympic Games, although Sochi does have a few advantages in their favour, like a compact Olympic Park cluster of venues closely collocated near the main Olympic Village, making it easier to throw a security blanket around the majority of athletes and officials.
Nonetheless, Sochi organisers will breathe a big sigh of relief once they get through the Opening Ceremony and then first weekend of sporting competition, which are two of the busiest and most challenging periods during any Games, when the majority of athletes and visitors are present and can be a prime target time for a terrorist or security attack.