Olympic Security:

Better Planning Can Enhance U.S. Support to Future Olympic Games

GAO-06-753: Published: Jun 30, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2006.

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The 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, were the second Olympic Games to take place overseas since September 11, 2001. The United States worked with Italy to ensure the security of U.S. citizens, and it expects to continue such support for future Games, including the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. GAO was asked to (1) discuss the U.S. approach for providing security support for the 2006 Winter Games and how such efforts were coordinated, (2) identify the roles of U.S. agencies in providing security support for the Games and how they financed their activities, (3) review lessons learned in providing security support and the application of prior lessons learned, and (4) identify U.S. efforts under way for providing security support to the 2008 Beijing Games.

In 2004, the United States began planning to provide a U.S. security presence in Italy and security support to the Italian government, and based much of its security strategy on its understanding of Italy's advanced security capabilities. The United States provided Italy with some security assistance, mostly in the form of crisis management and response support. To coordinate U.S. efforts, the U.S. Mission in Italy established an office in Turin as a central point for security information and logistics, and to provide consular services to U.S. citizens during the Games. The U.S. Ambassador to Italy, through the U.S. Consulate in Milan, coordinated and led U.S. efforts in-country, while the Department of State-chaired interagency working group in Washington, D.C., coordinated domestic efforts. While the interagency working group has been a useful forum for coordinating U.S. security support to overseas athletic events, State and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials have indicated that formal guidance that articulates a charter; a mission; and agencies' authorities, roles, and responsibilities would help in planning for security support to future Games. Nearly 20 entities and offices within several U.S. agencies provided more than $16 million for security support activities for the Turin Games. The roles of these agencies--which included the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, and Energy--included providing crisis management and response support through personnel, equipment, and training and providing security advice and other assistance to U.S. athletes, spectators, and commercial investors. The U.S. Embassy in Rome initially paid for lodging and other administrative support needs, which were reimbursed by the participating agencies, although it struggled to do so. State and DOJ officials indicated that an interagency mechanism for identifying costs and addressing potential funding issues would be useful in providing U.S. security support to future Games. For the Turin Games, agencies applied key lessons learned from the 2004 Athens Games and identified additional lessons for future Games. Key lessons identified from the Turin Games included, the importance of establishing an operations center at the location of the Games, establishing clear roles and responsibilities for agencies in event planning and crisis response efforts, and planning early for several years of Olympic-related expenditures. These lessons learned were communicated by Washington, D.C.- and Italy-based personnel to their counterparts who are preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The United States is currently taking steps to identify the types of security support that agencies may provide to support China's security efforts for the 2008 Summer Games and to ensure the safety of U.S. athletes, spectators, and commercial investors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, State, in consultation with members of the ISEG has developed written guidance and formalized it in a charter for providing U.S. government security support to future Olympic Games and other international athletic events. The charter identifies a mission (or purpose), authorities, and responsibilities for coordinating and supporting U.S. security efforts at future international sporting events. For example, the charter establishes a number of working groups to address specific issues and concerns such as resource management and counterterrorism crisis response. While this Charter is still in draft form, State attests that its principles have been implemented.

    Recommendation: To enhance planning and preparations for future overseas Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Secretary of State, in consultation with members of the International Athletic Events Security Coordinating Group, should develop written guidance for providing U.S. government security support to future Games. This guidance should identify key personnel and target dates for their assignment and roles and responsibilities, and key steps for the U.S. Mission and regional bureau to undertake in preparing for and leading the U.S. efforts at future Games. To formalize the process for providing security support overseas, we also recommend that State, in consultation with members of the International Athletic Events Security Coordinating Group, consider establishing a charter and mission statement for this group that identifies authorities and responsibilities for coordinating and supporting U.S. security efforts at future Games.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's second recommendation, State and the ISEG established a finance subcommittee in 2007 which was in effect to support the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. According to one State Official, the ISEG member agencies have benefited greatly from the financial subcommittee because costs are now assessed prior to the events and the agencies have a year or two to incorporate them into their budgets.

    Recommendation: To enhance planning and preparations for future overseas Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Secretary of State, in consultation with members of the International Athletic Events Security Coordinating Group, should develop a finance subgroup as part of the International Athletic Events Security Coordinating Group, which would bring together budgetary personnel from the various agencies or component entities that contribute to security efforts for overseas Games. A formal mechanism, such as a finance subgroup with established responsibilities, would help the agencies plan for anticipated resources needs, coordinate their budget requests, and address potential funding issues for U.S. security support at future Games.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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