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Diplomacy in Action

Planning Mega Sporting Events: Safety and Security

Dr. Louis Marciani, Director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, University of Souther Mississippi
New York, NY
July 25, 2013

2:00 P.M. EST


MS. CRONIN: Hi, everyone. This is Sara Cronin of the New York Foreign Press Center. Thank you for joining us on this teleconference on mega sporting event security. We’re very pleased to have Dr. Louis Marciani, Director of the National Center for Spectator Sports, Safety and Security, or NCS4, at the University of Southern Mississippi on the line. We sent you a link to his bio with a media advisory earlier. Please note that Dr. Marciani represents NCS4 and is not a U.S. Government spokesperson. He will be speaking today on safety and security aspects of planning major sporting events.

As you know, this teleconference kicks of the New York Foreign Press Center’s series on mega sporting events. We will be hosting a second program on August 2nd in Central Park with the executive vice president of the New York Road Runners organization, producers of the annual New York City Marathon.

This afternoon we ask that you hold questions under Dr. Marciani finishes making initial remarks. We would appreciate it if journalists introduce themselves and their media organization when asking questions during the Q&A portion of the conference.

Now without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Marciani. Welcome, and thank you so much.

MR. MARCIANI: Okay. Sara, thank you so much for the introduction. I would like to welcome all the journalists, and I’d like to officially thank U.S. State Department for this series on mega sports and safety and security. The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security is located University of Southern Mississippi, and it was established in 2006 as really a result of really 9/11. Here at the center, we have nine faculty and staff that work every day and obviously research and providing training, facilitating information sharing. We have an academic program here where one can get a master’s degree in sports management with an emphasis in security. And most importantly, we work with all of the professional leagues here in the United States. We work with the NCAA and other government agencies to really facilitate and strengthen security practices here in the United States.

Today, the subject being mega events, I’ll direct my attention to – when we say mega events, we’re really referring to here in the United States such events as the Super Bowl, World Series, Final Fours, BCS-NCAA football championships, the – as Sara mentioned – the New York Marathon, Boston Marathon.

So these are very complex events, and I – we’ve referenced all these events post-9/11. Since 9/11 we have – “we” meaning U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies – have worked diligently to look at reducing risk. We know events such (inaudible) might occur whether they’re manmade or by nature, such as weather, might affect an event. So we do approach everything here in this country with what we call “all hazard approach.”

When it comes to mega events, we usually, on the average, start out at least – depending on the event, obviously – around 18 months, a year and a half, almost two-years out, because of the requirements to work with key partners. In the United States, all our events are in conjunction with, obviously local, state, and federal authorities. We have to work with the Emergency Management Agency, fire, emergency medical, transportation/traffic, public works. We’ve got to work with the health departments, and many, many other agencies that are required to put on a complex event such as a Super Bowl, where it’s not just the event site itself, but it’s all of the other areas, whether it’s tailgating. And you keep moving the perimeter around. We’re worried about risk – hotels, traffic, transportation. So it takes on a world unto its own in regard to these major events.

So basically what we normally do is we have a lead agency, usually law enforcement. They establish the mission. We kind of charter the process together. We reach out and form what we call an executive committee. And this executive committee is tasked with identifying, like, all the functional areas that we have to plan and create subcommittees, clarify – this is very important – clarifying the leadership authority and structure, all the partner agreements, all what we call MOUs. It’s – again, it’s all part of the process.

Ultimately, what’s interesting about special events, that’s exciting, that they’re new. And when I say new, they require an understanding of the area because you – it’s a temporarily – temporary involvement. So organizations are temporary. Relationships are temporary. Sometimes the structures are new. So it’s all about leadership when it comes to – leadership in defining the mission and the charter.

Once we have our teams together and we’re broken down into subcommittees, we usually meet – it depends, closer to the event the more we meet – but generally the subcommittees are given are their charter and their responsibilities to report into the executive committee.

One of the key components that we use is the threat and risk assessments. Immediately we want to identify potential threats, what kind of crime rates, fire, in the past vandalism, natural disasters, protests, terrorism, gangs, what issues face us early so we can obviously gear up our technology, gear up our training, our exercises, to practice these particular threats so that we’re really prepared for such an incident.

And the key for us is good a good working team, a cohesive team to pull off, again, a Super Bowl in next – this year in New Jersey you have – just think of that. In New Jersey and New York, two states, multiple agencies, a very difficult process coming forward here next February.

So once we know what the threat levels are – we’ve got our team in place, we’ve got our team in place, we’ve got our subcommittees in place – we are now beginning to quickly work on our workforce, training the workforce, looking at our communications and our technology. We’ll begin to look at our access control policies, screening, all our physical security needs. We’re going to be looking very heavily at traffic flows, transportation, intelligence. A lot of time goes into working with our – what they call our state fusion centers, hat kind of information flow, back and forth, so we’re on top of all matters relative to that particular event. Looking at fire, their role, EMSs, hospitals, public health. So it continues on.

And then of course an important area that all of you are interested in is the effort that we put into public information and media relations. In the United States, we work under what we call incident command system, ICS. And the public information officer is a key component to the ICS. So they are responsible for developing and releasing information about, let’s say, an incident that would occur to the news media, to the incident personnel at other appropriate agencies and, let’s say, organizations. So you, as journalists, know that in the United States, if something would occur, inside that command center, there is a person and staff responsible for public information for you.

They also work as public information officers on the preparedness side. It’s very important in advance of an incident or a planned event to have life-saving measures in place. What are the evacuation routes? What are things or information that people need to be safe? See something, say something. We worked very hard at that in the United States the last six years, about making – I say making, but kind of encouraging spectators to be first responders so we’re – they’re aware of packages, behaviors. We work at that very hard. Most of our events have three layers – what we call an outer layer, middle layer and inner layer. These layers have different levels of security the closer you get to the actual event itself. And these are important ways to reduce the risk.

And so these public information officers are responsible for keeping all of us informed before an event, during an event, and also don’t forget recovery. If something were to happen at any event, it’s up to – we count on the public information officers during this critical time to provide us the reassurance and to reassure the public that their government agencies are working together to resolve, let’s say, the situation or bring assistance to those that need it.

So journalism, media, critical assets to a mega event. And media relations plays a very important role in these events. The relationships that we have with the media, international as well as national, to making sure that we – that people are knowledgeable of life-safety activities all the way through an incident that would occur at a mega sporting event.

And then finally, as we go through the event itself, we have our processes for meetings daily and what we call interoperability communications systems between agencies that we’ve worked hard since 9/11. Our technology is becoming much more sophisticated within the last 10 years, more high definition cameras monitoring, or better biometrics, radiation detection. We are working very hard to provide the environment, what we call a balance between safety, security and the fan experience.

So I think in a nutshell, that’s what goes into a mega event. Very complex, but it comes down to people, processes and technology. They all three have to be at the top of their game to pull off a Super Bowl, the New York Marathon, the U.S. Open tennis, Final Fours. And it takes a lot of hard work for at least a minimum of 18 months.

Okay. So that’s a little bit of synopsis of what we go through.

MS. CRONIN: That was great, Dr. Marciani. Thank you. And I think we’ll open it up to questions now.

OPERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you have any questions, please press the * followed by the 1 on your touchtone phone. If you are using speaker equipment, please lift the handset before making your selection. Once again, if you have any questions or comments, please press *1 on your touchtone phone.

Our first question comes from the line of Sharon Adams with Epoch Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh. Thanks very much, Dr. Marciani. I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit about how security has had to change since the Boston bombings and what cost that might be and whether that’s going to affect ticket prices involved with some of these big events.

MR. MARCIANI: Well, the Boston Marathon is our really first event in the United States since the Olympics in 1996, and it really woke us up. We – just for example, we spent – since we started the center here in 2006, I would say to you we’ve spent 99 percent of our time on stadiums and arenas to – obviously to work toward reducing risk there. But when the Boston Marathon incident occurred, at our national convention just a week ago the main topic was – at our forum is how do we enhance best practices for marathons? And what we’ve learned from it is same principles but different challenge. And the different challenge is, in a stadium, it’s confined, but in a – cycling or running, you have 26 miles or more.

So we have to look at new technologies, for instance more portable cameras, credentialing the start and finish line; more situational awareness, more vigilance. We learned that we did very well with our response to the incident. From volunteers, from medical people, to law enforcement, to emergency management, we did a terrific job. And we have been doing very well, ladies and gentlemen, with response in all our incidences since 9/11. We’re very fortunate, whether it was the US Airways landing in the Hudson River to tornadoes to hurricanes to Boston, we – thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, we train hard, we exercise hard, and that’s the secret. That’s the secret.

In Boston, when we had the discussion at the conference, they said, and I’m almost quoting, we practiced this to happen. We were ready for something like this to happen. And that means that we’ve got proper funding to train people and to exercise.

So in answer to your question, we’ve learned a lot. We can get better at response. But where we’re weak at right now, and we’re working hard at it, is preparedness. And how do we prepare better through technology, people and processes? There’s better training, better technology, and better preparation with policies and procedures.

OPERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you have any questions or comments, please press * followed by the 1. Our next question comes from the line of Isabel De Luca with O Globo. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. As you know, Brazil is hosting both the World Cup and the Olympic Games soon. My question is, what do you think – what do you see as the biggest challenges, and how would you address to them?

MR. MARCIANI: That’s an excellent question. Well, the challenges would be based on the threats and risk associated with the event itself. Sitting here in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, we’re not privy to what those threats and risks are, except in a general way. Obviously, terrorism has to come to our forefront. That would be a concern, probably the number one and the concern.

I think what’s good that I’ve learned the last 12 years is that when you’re talking about World Cup and Olympics, we’re talking about much more resources, longer time to prepare. Therefore, we can study the environment better and prepare better. As we go into the World Cup, there is history at World Cup. There’s history from the past. There will be issues, new issues facing Brazil in ’14 that the others haven’t, but through information sharing between countries, we are all working together to ensure safety and security at all these events.

So in summary, to me it’s terrorism in some form or fashion. And we’ve had – all practiced that and practicing that, and looking at ways between interagency cooperation, intercontinental cooperation, Interpol, that we – that – I would say information sharing, training, exercising, preparing for terrorism would be what’s going on as we speak.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have any questions or comments, please press the * followed by the 1 on your touchtone phone. If you are using speaker equipment, please lift the handset before making your selection. One moment, please.

And there’s no futher questions at this time.

MS. GRUNDER: This is Alyson Grunder, the Director of the Foreign Press Center. I had a question about how you address emotionalism of fans, and how you kind of address fan behavior that is unruly or even dangerous.

MR. MARCIANI: Well, again, if you want to make a long list of problems, crowd behavior is up there, whether it’s in Europe, Asia, or the United States or wherever. That starts with looking at policies and procedures first, Alyson, and I think what is expected of the fan conduct going into an event, all right? Most stadiums today have fan conduct.

Secondly, what we have done in the United States – it has come over very successfully the last seven years – is we treat the spectators here as first responders. We have in most of our stadiums now what they call texting systems. If you’re in a stadium and you’re in an environment that requires some supervisor to attend to something, I can text the command center. Every spectator can text to a command center. Whether it’s behavioral, whether it’s suspicious, I have an opportunity to express myself to get help. That has really curbed a lot of fan issues.

Years ago, a time you saw a fight occur, the fight was going on, which then triggered other sections to get involved, and it became a very disruptive environment. We worked hard at that. We’ve worked – we worked hard at crowd management training. We have certifications today in crowd management certification. So we can anticipate that through threat and risk assessments. We know what kind of crowds we’re going to get. If it’s a rivalry, we must adapt to that. It might mean more visual law enforcement personnel. It depends on the environment, depends on the type of crowd, depends on how you plan for it, how you train your staff for it. And today with the high-end technology, with high definition cameras, we can zoom in within seconds to that particular site to draw attention to get support.

So we’re working very hard at a tough issue. And again, it does vary from country to country, and it’s something that we are – again, I continue to say, studing it diligently every day to the point that, hopefully, we can continue to improve best practices in crowd management.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And we do have a follow-up question from the line of Isabel De Luca with O Globo. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, it’s me again. There have been a lot of protests in Brazil lately. And mostly the protectors, they are against the amount of money that’s being spent on both big games we are hosting (inaudible). What do you think should be the best way of dealing with that?

MR. MARCIANI: That’s a good one too. That’s a deep question, if I – I call it deep. There is frustrations seeing money poured into something that may not effect a person or a group of people. It’s beyond safety and security, this question. I think it’s how the government relationship is with the citizenry of Brazil, how they can engage them to show why this investment could be beneficial to them, that – it has to be a clear message of why and what are the benefits to be received by those that are not directly involved in that particular side of the, say, side of the government or side of that issue.

To me, the quicker there’s an engagement of understanding that by bringing the world to Brazil they will see the beauty of Brazil, in a sense, but also the benefits of the new sources of revenues that will come to Brazil, the legacies of the venues, for instance, that Brazil would not have if it wasn’t the World Cup or the Olympics, that when the Olympics leave and the torch goes out what’s left is possibility of better housing, better recreational facilities, competitive facilities, more revenues generated because of it, so the investment was worth it. But also, in Brazil’s case, a chance to be on the stage with the world’s – what they’re all looking at what accomplishments the country’s made.

So I’m speaking really way out of my league in the sense of beyond safety and security, but that’s how I feel, and I hope that that could be accomplished.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And at this time, I’m not showing any – oh, it looks like we just got a question from the line of Inga Czerny with Polish Press Agency. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you. I would like to ask you once again about marathon in Boston. How do you secure entire track of marathon? And secondly, could you talk a little bit about the use of drones for secure big events. Thank you.

MR. MARCIANI: Okay. I think one was how do we manage the event, right, because of its size, right?

QUESTION: Yes. The entire --

MR. MARCIANI: And secondly was it – did you say drugs?

QUESTION: Drones. Yes.

MR. MARCIANI: Oh, drones. Drones?


MR. MARCIANI: Oh, okay. Good, good. All right. First, what I – we discussed at the conference last week would be – the next stage would be – and I’m assuming that New York – as a matter of fact, I do know, as we look at the New York Marathon coming in November, look for additional portable cameras throughout the whole course that would feed back into the command center. So more knowledge of the entire scenery of the marathon itself at all aspects of it versus limited area. So I am very much aware that cameras will be increased, law enforcement will be increased, more vigilance will be emphasized.

The other area that you talked about that is very timely – one of the sessions that we had is in the area of the future of using drones for safety and security at major events. I personally am in favor of additional research in this area as soon as possible. The – what’s being used today is helicopters and helicopters have limitations that are not necessarily designed for that particular event, they’re really used for other events. But as we look at customizing drones to provide, particularly in marathons and cycling and major events where we can see and cover more, we would get better feeds and be able to respond – prepare for and respond better than we did ever before.

So I am pushing for – to be involved with the government as much as we can to look at requirements, policies, procedures for drones usage in security – sports security, I should say – and testing. I’d love to see if we could test by next year some events on a trial basis to see the capabilities. But I’m pushing hard – this is – personally, I’m pushing hard, because I believe that will really support the efforts to better secure an event than we ever have before.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, I’m not showing any further questions. Please continue.

MS. CRONIN: Hi, Dr. Marciani. Sara from the Foreign Press Center. I had a question.


MS. CRONIN: As a New Jersey native, I’m really excited to see the Super Bowl come to my home state. And so I was wondering if you could speak a bit more on the planning complexities specific to this Super Bowl. You mentioned it was split between two states and so therefore you’re doubling amount of agencies that you’re working with. And I was just wondering what else – like what are the complexities you were dealing with there.

MR. MARCIANI: Traffic, traffic patterns, transportation to the event itself. The pressure of risk from going back to hotels are going to be of concern. You don’t concern yourself just with the event itself, particularly a Super Bowl, it’s all the surroundings, right, and the types of training. We’re going to see a lot more training at this Super Bowl than we’ve ever seen, and I know that for a fact – training taxi cab drivers, training hotel attendants, parking attendants, hotel maids, housekeepers, so that’s it’s what we call a whole-community approach or an entire environment to pay attention and be vigilant so we can reduce the risk, and if something should happen we can be able to better respond.

So this is so different than any event we’ve ever had probably in the United States, because you’ve got two – again, it’s beyond normalcy in a sense that, like I said earlier, what’s occurring right now to solidify everything is that – is the lead agency authorization between the two states, which is bringing – obviously (inaudible) worked out.

So once New York and New Jersey, that process is in place, than obviously from there they can do like we said earlier, establishing the mission, reaching out to all the collaborative agencies. There’ll be lead agencies and then there’ll be the subcommittees and then there’ll be the tasks assigned to them, like any other event. And then obviously the threat and risk can vary between New York City Times Square all the way to MetLife Stadium, so – and all in between. You have Newark Airport, you got Teterboro Airport, you got LaGuardia. It’s just tough. This is unique and the most risk we’ve probably ever taken for a major event in the United States.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a question from the line of Thomas Mossburger with DPA. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My question is more security in stadiums and arenas often means more controls and more surveillance. My question is: How do American sports can cope with that? Do you have protests? Do you have like reactions on more controls to stadiums, or are people okay with it and understand why this has to be?

MR. MARCIANI: Well, that’s a good question. They’ve all been good questions. What we – the one thing that we do emphasize here is constitutional rights at all times, whether it’s for speech and assembly, we have protocols for that. But I have to say this to you that we have become conditioned since 9/11 and I think maybe credit it to TSA that in this country people are willing to sacrifice a little effort and time and vigilance in exchange for freedom. And so what I’m saying in a nutshell that our fans are willing to wait on a line to go into a ballpark or stadium knowing on the other end that it’s worth my time, I want to have a good event, I got my two boys, I don't want to worry about security, because I’m there to enjoy the event.

And so we struggle all the time, obviously, with this balance between safety, security and the fan experience, but safety will always be number one, okay, and security right behind it in a sense. So I’m thankful watching all these events the last number of years how people are willing to accept that responsibility of security and safety, knowing that it’s worth the effort. So I’m speaking for our country and our philosophy, our mission in life, and our country’s principles that we’re doing the right thing to security these stadiums to make them safe, and not so much at the expense that we’re ruining their experiences.

QUESTION: Great, thanks.


MS. CRONIN: Thank you. Our next question is a follow up from the line of Isabel De Luca with O Global. Please go ahead.


QUESTION: Hi. Just – it’s real quick, actually. When answering my first question, you spoke of terrorism as the main challenge to look at in Brazil, right?


QUESTION: My question is: Even in Brazil where terrorism isn’t generally an issue –

MR. MARCIANI: Well, I – it’s an international event. It’s not about Brazil. This is the globe coming – the world coming to Brazil. And with the world comes other issues and threats. So – well, I know and – reading and also discussing with Brazilian security, the world’s coming to you so therefore the stage is different. And terrorism that you’re not used to in the sense of on a daily basis, we’re preparing for that, because it’s not Brazil we’re talking about. We’re talking about the world.

QUESTION: Thank you.


OPERATOR: Thank you. And at this time I’m not showing any further questions.

MS. CRONIN: Okay. That’s great. Thank you so much, Dr. Marciani. That was very, very interesting.

MR. MARCIANI: All of you, thank you.

MS. CRONIN: (Inaudible) – thank you – I think you’re the only journalist who participated. At this time I think we’re ready to wrap up the call.


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