On July 6, London went head to head with Paris and won, by a 54-50 vote, the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The jubilation seemed like it would last a decade.
The following day, however, the celebration turned to horror and mourning. Four suicide bombers detonated explosives on London's public transportation system, killing dozens of people.
Two weeks later, on July 21, an unsuccessful attack rocked the city. No one was hurt.
When the panic, concern and attention turn away from security in the London of 2005, attention will without a doubt turn to 2012. London's bid hinged on massive revitalization projects to the city's east side, with plans to turn those neighborhoods into Europe's largest urban park and create a home for many of the Olympic venues. How will all of this be affected?
According to Jack Seaquist, a terrorism model product manager for AIR, Olympic planners and city fathers most likely answered all of these questions long before July 7.
"I suspect that it is already part of the plan," Seaquist says, "because of the visibility of the Olympic Games and the recognition already that it's a possible terrorist target. It's all been taken into consideration and (July 7) probably just confirms what people were planning to do."
Gordon Woo, chief architect of the RMS terrorism risk model, agrees, suggesting that London's security proposals were a major reason the city landed the 2012 games. "Security was always going to be a major factor in the award of the event," Woo says. "It's only cities that have excellent security that would be considered in the first place."
Dennis Kuzak, senior vice president at EQECAT, another modelling vendor, says that security is old-hat for Olympic planners wherever the games are located.
"Ever since the Olympics in Munich in 1972," says Kuzak, "the actual venues for the Olympic sites are going to have extremely high security, and I don't think these terrorist attacks are going to change that."
Because of strong protections at so-called "hard targets," both Kuzak and Seaquist warn, however, that soft targets have become the biggest concern. For Kuzak, the largest of these targets will be public transportation. As it was prior to July 7, London's transport system already had a notorious reputation.
"The dilemma for London is the extent that they're going to rely on the subway to provide a lot of, let's say, foot traffic to the venue sites in London, that's going to be more of a big burden," says Kuzak.
For Seaquist, government and international experts will ensure public transportation is a hard target. The biggest concerns will be soft targets in the private sector.
In this case, it would be up to individual companies, and their risk managers, to come up with risk-mitigation strategies. These could include security measures taken up with their local neighbors and the authorities to secure their perimeters, as well as structural measures such as blast barriers and window glazing.
Seaquist, Woo and Kuzak agree that the terrorist attacks in the summer of 2005 will not slow down the preparations for the summer of 2012. If anything, says Kuzak, the massive construction projects represent an excellent opportunity to improve security and infrastructure.
"They have an opportunity to design infrastructure that will basically increase the security," he says. "They may in fact control the access points to all the venue sites; they may put in more security equipment. Clearly that is what I would expect to happen."
Despite these or other precautions, the International Olympic Committee most likely will be prepared for the worst-case scenario of a cancellation in 2012. The IOC has already agreed to buy cancellation coverage, as it had for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
September 1, 2005
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