You can’t assume you know a city when the Olympics are in town. Multi-layered intelligence analysis — starting months ahead of time — is going to be key to navigating this all-important, two-week stretch on the global stage, Head of Advisory Cvete Koneska explains.
With 40 sporting locations, 15 million spectators, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries, 45,000 police officers and plans for the most audacious opening ceremony in history, the 2024 Olympics will be Paris — but not as you know it.
When the world’s attention swings there on 26 July, companies will get a rare opportunity to showcase their brand to a global audience and reap commercial and reputational rewards.
But for corporate security teams, the focus will be on more than gold medals. The Olympics has a history of attracting the best in sporting talent and the worst of threat actors. Combine that with the transport changes, infrastructure demands, media circus and the sheer number of people in one place for an extended period, and it’s clear that the threat environment is both complex and very different to what you’re used to – even if you know Paris extremely well and are very comfortable there.
What does this mean for security teams? Well, just like the athletes, you will need to become specialised competitors when training for this high-stakes event. There are five distinct types of threats which you must track early and continually, to keep your organisation and your people safe.
#1: Geopolitical and Domestic Risk Drivers
As with every major event, there is the possibility that activists and bad actors may hijack the global profile of the Games to make their voices heard. Previous Olympics attracted both physical attacks – as in Munich in 1972 – and more recently, cyber attacks, such as the Olympic Destroyer attack on the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea in 2018.
Risks can emanate from multiple realms: environmental and other types of activism, political tensions, social unrest, trade embargoes, domestic legislation, inter-country competition and ideology.
France’s ongoing unrest, marked by public demonstrations against President Macron’s pension reforms earlier this year, could also escalate during the Olympics as a public symbol of national discontent.
While many threats are obvious, others lie just beyond the edge of easy knowledge. Warning signals can be difficult to identify amidst the noise — especially when security resources are finite and focused on the Games themselves.
How we help: Olympic-sized events have Olympic-sized risk radiuses. Our bespoke advisory service can map out your full threat landscape as pertains to the games, including the geopolitical and domestic issues which may affect your organisation. You’ll be able to see the full picture of the risks you may face so that you can proactively plan how to protect your people in good time.
One client – a sporting organisation – opted to change the location of their event following this bespoke exercise, proving that it’s essential to understand the full range of risks you might face during a major event in order to inform tactical decisions on the ground.
#2: Event Risks
From the 2016 Euro Football Championship to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, France is no stranger to hosting large-scale sports events. Security measures already outlined for the Games include an arsenal of surveillance, no-fly zones and a massive police presence to ensure the events pass off peacefully.
However, while France brings a level of assurance, all security measures have potential consequences downstream – some of which are common to all participating organisations, and some of which will be completely unique to you:
- Will low-risk locations see their security threats escalate as police resources are diverted to stadiums?
- What’s the impact on travel as restrictions are enforced?
- When and where might civil unrest occur and how will this affect local operations?
- Is your company being exposed to cyber threats when delegates use the event’s digital infrastructure?
- Will on-site security be enough to screen out people who are potentially harmful to your organisation when central authorities are not focused on your unique corporate threat landscape?
How we help: You will doubtless have excellent security arrangements during the event itself, but a tactical team often lacks sufficient analytical resources to map out specific vulnerabilities around your physical landscape ahead of time – leaving you with gaps in your security plan.
Our bespoke advisory service can do this for you, saving you time and resources. Our approach is anticipatory, focusing on the specific threats to your organisation under the specific conditions of the Olympics and how they might evolve as the event approaches. Infrastructure, operations and local law enforcement will all be different during the Games. Our intelligence can help you plan your security measures around these changes to safeguard your people and movements between locations.
#3: Your Company’s Own Risks
Who might want to target you? Even within the particular context of the Olympics, your organisation’s threat ecosystem is unique. Of acute concern are the nature of your business activities, your clients and associates, the nature of your involvement in the Games, the profile of delegates attending, the identity of the individuals you are sponsoring, and your physical footprint on the ground.
All of these factors may affect the grievances that hostile actors may hold against you and the roster of possible threat sources such as activist groups, employees or customers.
Even if you’re not physically attending the Games, your mere association as a sponsor may expose your business to risks. For example, if your brand is associated, even tangentially, with environmental harms, activists may take this opportunity to tarnish your image. The action itself may be purely symbolic but no less damaging to your reputation. The whole world is watching.
How we help: In order to be actionable and useful, an effective pre-event threat assessment cannot only look at general risks. It must not only be event-specific, but highly focused on the unique risks to your business.
Our landscape threat assessment refers back to your company, mission, goals, risk appetite and the threat profile of relevant individuals in every paragraph. We look at the role your company is fulfilling, your footprint on the ground and in the media and any associations with national or global causes, and consider the implications. What are your physical and reputational vulnerabilities?
Our highly focused insights will inform a tailor-made security strategy for your organisation, supporting plans of action both before and during the Games. And in the run-up to the Paris event, our Protective Intelligence team can monitor the deep and dark webs to identify any threats that may impact your company, so you can adjust your threat landscape on an ongoing basis and plan proactively.
#4: Risks on the Day
The Olympics is a dynamic event and threat landscapes can turn on a dime. There’s a mountain of work to be done on the ‘days of,’ from confirming that travel routes are clear for a VIP’s arrival to verifying that local crime reports are not a symptom of anything bigger.
Since situations can escalate in a matter of minutes, you will need to be plugged into multiple streams of data to interpret the mood around the Games and monitor status changes that demand additional vigilance on the ground.
How we help: Dragonfly’s Protective Intelligence analysts are your eyes and ears both before and throughout the Games. Combining human agency and world-class automation, we monitor breaking news, social media posts, images, videos, deep and dark web chatter and more, to get a real-time, end-to-end story of emerging threats, long before they become visible on mainstream media and before your team on the ground might notice them.
If we detect anything that may impact your organisation, we’ll get that information to you in a timely manner so you can manage the situation with confidence.
#5: Post-event Legacy Risks
With the fireworks done and security winding down, it’s time for your commercial team to start capitalising on the opportunities the Games have opened for your organisation. But what if you were suddenly hit with an influx of negative social media posts as a result of the Olympics? What impact would that have on those opportunities — and your reputation?
For better or worse, the Games have a legacy; some threats do not end with the closing ceremony. Whether you’re there as a delegate or sponsor, the mere act of exposing your brand to the Olympics can make you “guilty by association” long-term, and change your threat landscape forever more.
For example, given the recent protests in France, being seen to sponsor the Games when you offer only modest pensions for local employees could cause a worrying backlash that leaves a lasting impression. Or the Games may raise your profile with certain actors and groups who have the intent and capability to carry out disruptive actions against your organisation, in the physical or digital world.
As your focus shifts to the next event, do you have the resources to figure out where the unwanted attention is coming from or whether it might amplify from a reputational issue to a physical threat?
How we help: Our Protective Intelligence service can help you understand how your risk profile has changed post-Olympic Games.
Once the event is over, we revisit the threat assessment we prepared for you before the Games, to understand any developments to your risk profile. When these change, we adjust your threat assessment so that it is up-to-date and so that you can take the appropriate steps to reduce and manage security threats following your partnership activities.
If we continue to work together, we revisit the document on a regular basis, so that your threat assessment is continually optimised. And we can continue tracking activity on social media and the more nefarious parts of the deep and dark webs that may affect your organisation and people, so instead of being blindsided by threats last-minute, you will know where threats are coming from in good time.
Prepare NOW to get games ready
The sheer size and symbolism of the Olympics make them a particularly enticing target. Attacks could come from many sources, be physical or reputational — and of course, be highly publicised.
You can’t secure your company at an event like this by looking only at general risks.
The good news is, with the Olympics still a year away, there’s still plenty of time to think about the issues in a comprehensive way. Early planning is essential to mitigate risks and translate your involvement in the Olympics into a triumph for your brand. And if you’re pressed for time and resources, you do not have to do this alone. We help security teams prepare for and monitor events like this all the time, and can ensure that you always have full sight of the five layers of knowledge necessary to protect your people and reputation.
Ultimately, the goal of your Paris preparations is simple: keep the drama on the track and off your business.
To find out how we can help you understand your threat landscape before, during and after the Paris Olympics or any other major event, please get in touch with our advisory specialists today.
Image: (L-R) French Delegate Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, President of French National Olympic Committee, Brigitte Henriques, Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, and President of the Paris Organising Committee of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Tony Estanguet talk to the audience after the Olympic flag is hoisted marking the handover from Japan at the Hotel du Ville in Paris on 9 August 2021. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin via Getty Images.