Editor's Note

Olympic Lessons Learned in Munich

IT was a dark day in Munich when eight Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli hostages, marring the 1972 Olympics by bloodshed and terror. That year, the games returned to Germany for the first time since 1936 when Nazism was hitting its stride, the country was festooned with swastikas and Hitler hoped to showcase the "superiority" of his Aryan race.

Hilter's 1936 dream failed, and the last six days of the 1972 Olympics were a nightmare.

Security at a venue such as the Olympics isn't easy in the first place, and this is the worst recorded tragedy in Olympic history. The Arab terrorists stormed the Olympic village, raiding the apartment building that housed the Israeli contingent. Two Israeli athletes were killed in that building; nine more were seized as hostages.

It's all about security, and it has been since the 1972 Olympic Games. This year's Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, is no exception.

After negotiations failed, the terrorists -- all members of Yassar Arafat's Fatah of the Palestine Liberation Organization -- herded the hostages to a military airport for a flight back to the Middle East. German sharpshooters made a mess of picking off the terrorists, and the terrorists made a mockery of the Olympic Games by killing their hostages.

Do you see a similarity between Hilter's failed dream and Arafat's murderous plot?

It's all about security, and it has been since the 1972 Olympic Games.

This year's Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, is no exception. Providing security is paramount in a world rife with terrorism and terrorists, who will stop at nothing to upset the balance of peace and prosperity under the guise of jihad.

"The 2006 Olympic Winter Games present a unique set of risks and security challenges compared to previous games," said Robert Sikellis, managing director and associate general counsel of Vance International. "With Italy's upcoming national elections, coupled with its strong military alliance with the United States in the war on terror, the Olympic Games present a significant target for terrorist acts."

The Olympic Games have become a risky business, and it takes a security firm well acquainted with managing those risks to provide security consulting, crisis planning, physical protection and threat monitoring.

It would be no stretch of the imagination that the Winter Games are being used as a platform by social protest organizations hostile to American corporate sponsors and participants. Sikellis said that a few organizations have already boycotted some key products known to be sold or promoted during or around the games, putting attendees and employees in uncomfortable and potentially unsafe situations.

"Companies sponsoring or attending the Torino Games need to actively understand and plan for these kinds of security threats," Sikellis said.

Providing security at the Olympics is not new for Vance. The company began security services for the Olympics during the 1988 Games in Seoul, successfully protecting major corporate sponsors through seven Olympic Games. Corporations must be prepared for high-risk contingencies during the 17-day Winter Olympics.

The games host an estimated 5,000 athletes, thousands of guests and executives of official sponsor companies, and more than 1.5 million spectators. Even Sikellis said there is a degree of complacency about the games, but he also believes that it is unwarranted.

The Winter Games have fewer events and less participants overall. Activities are dispersed over a wider geographical area and in mountainous areas that demand greater security and logistical measures. Vance has forewarned clients to plan for serious contingencies, from natural disasters like avalanches and severe weather, to terrorists acts and violent protect demonstrations.

Part of good security is understanding local laws, government policies and social conventions, as well as realistically assessing specific risks that may vary from company to company. Hard to understand, but one sponsoring organization might spark anti-globalization protests, while another might attract animal rights activists.

"Security planning has to take these variables into account and respond accordingly," Sikellis said.

Vance officials said the way they plan security by working closely with companies' internal security departments, Olympic security personnel and law enforcement organizations to monitor and address specific threat concerns. Vance recommends actions like training attendees on cultural nuances and personal safety techniques, and monitoring threats using innovative online tools and local intelligence.

The Olympic Games should serve as the world's venue for diplomacy and peace. Security should be able to take a holiday, though it won't. There's nothing more predictable than the unpredictable, or in this case, preventing terror on the Olympic stage.

The 1972 games were meant as a sporting jubilee to repudiate the last Olympics on German soil. The Munich games were to be carefree. There would be no place for barbed wire, troops or police bristling with sidearms. Where Hitler's Olympics had opened and closed with cannon salutes and der Fuhrer presiding, the 1972 games would showcase a new forward-looking Germany. Security personnel, called Olys, were to be inconspicuous, prepared for little more than ticket fraud and drunkenness.

With security tossed aside, the Olympics became one big party. After late-night runs to the Hofbrauhaus, virile young athletes would detour the official entrance by scaling a chain-link fence. The Olys learned to look the other way. The Black September commandos did likewise. Munich organizers spent less than $2 million to make the games secure, and Munich has served as a model of what not to do in every conceivable way.

The lessons learned came in the form of the security at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, where the village was built so secure, it was eventually converted into a prison. Several years later, the International Olympic Committee began to collect and share information related to security -- everything from food tasters for athletes in Seoul to the palm-print recognition technology in Atlanta.

Proper planning and effective security measures will ensure the success of the Torino Games, though take nothing for granted. Vigilance remains the watch word of this month's sporting events.

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 6.


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