London 2012 will host the finest athletes in the world, each determined to run the fastest, jump the highest or be proved the strongest. It is a mass celebration of human achievement and a chance for the whole world to come together.
For me, these events carry much more weight than they normally would. I am watching them very closely, paying attention to details that, as a spectator, I would likely try to overlook, even ignore, so as to not to spoil my fun. Simply put, this time, I am behaving like a risk manager.
I am looking for possible threats that could impact the associated cultural and community events; keenly tracking the contractual relationships of financiers, sponsors, staff and volunteers; and inquiring into the transportation details for the athletes, officials and spectators.
I am also examining the contingencies around technology for scoring, communications and broadcasting; studying the medical and anti-doping services and tracking the construction, security and surveillance plans for all of the Games' functions and venues.
Why am I doing this reconnaissance? Because I am spearheading the risk management program for the Pan/Parapan American Games, which will be held in Toronto in 2015. Those games are another large sporting event with 51 sports and more than 40 venues.
So, now, I have to wear my risk management glasses and recognize that they can't always be rose-colored.
We in the risk management community embrace the benefits of identifying, understanding and managing risks and threats. We pride ourselves on anticipating and visualizing adverse, even catastrophic, events.
We also recognize that unpleasant surprises will occur and we have learned to stomach inherent uncertainty. We are seasoned, even hardened, risk professionals. But sometimes I wonder if we forget how we may appear to others.
Recent risk reports have forecast that London 2012 could become a "hotbed of diseases," and be victim to terror attacks, infrastructure failure, catastrophic stampedes, crowd violence and transportation gridlock. These doom-and-gloom public statements make me pause.
Even though risk managers may see ourselves as an organization's vital risk statesmen, others may see us simply as the official spoilsport, party pooper, fun sponge, killjoy, fear monger or prophet of doom. If we really think about it, can we really blame them?
There is a fine line between being an alarmist stoking unnecessary fears and being a level-headed, pragmatic aid in risk management and decision making. We need to constantly remind ourselves to find that precious balance.
Just as Nik Wallenda walks a tight rope, risk managers should really try to balance their focus between what could happen and what will happen. Yes, indeed, there is a possibility for bad things to occur, but let's not forget what is certain and what will indeed go on this summer: London will host an awe-inspiring festival of effort, focus and athletic performance that will inspire the world. Now that's always worth talking about.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is an internationally recognized Enterprise Risk Management executive with experience in energy, health care, and most recently in the sporting event sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 24, 2012
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