Final Count at 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games: Zero

Often nations use medal counts when determining success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For Diplomatic Security (DS), zero is a winning number –- as in zero significant security incidents. 

Thanks to the efforts of the Government of Brazil and a “whole-of-Mission” effort among the many U.S. agencies and offices, the Games were safe and secure for hundreds of thousands of international visitors, including the more than 100,000 American citizens, who descended on Brazil.

As field liaison officers, DSS special agents consult with a member of the Rio de Janeiro Bombeiro Civil (center) during routine security operations at the Port of Rio de Janeiro, August 13, 2016. [U.S. Department of State photo]

“With the curtains closed on the Paralympics, so ends the efforts of the International Security Events Group (ISEG) in helping secure Rio 2016. I’m proud of the hard work, detailed planning, and personnel contributions the interagency collective put toward Rio 2016,” said U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations John Eustace.

Eustace, along with DS’s Director of Protection Rich Ingram, co-chaired ISEG for the Rio 2016 games. The group, which coordinates U.S. government interagency efforts to ensure that U.S. citizens remain safe while attending significant international events, was just one of DS’s assignments during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Department of State established an Olympic Coordinating Office (OCO) in September 2014 in Rio de Janeiro to support the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Working within the OCO, lead Olympic Security Coordinator Peter Ford and his deputy, Angela Brenner, DS also oversaw the safety and security of athletes from Team USA, American corporate sponsors, and members of the U.S. media. Ford’s team -- the Olympic Security Coordination Team--also managed Diplomatic Security Service special agents who were deployed on the ground during the games to support Brazilian law enforcement authorities.

Diplomatic Security’s Olympic Security Coordinator Peter Ford (right) greets a Brazilian Federal police helicopter pilot, August 15, 2016. DSS collaboration with Brazilian authorities was critical to ensuring information flow and coordination of security operations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [U.S. Department of State photo]

Preparations between the United States and Brazil began in 2011 when the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding on joint cooperation supporting future global sporting events hosted by Brazil. Brazil has a long and proud tradition of successfully hosting large-scale events, from the annual Carnaval festivities to the 2014 World Cup. To help the Brazilians prepare for hosting the megaevents of the Olympics and Paralympics back-to-back, OCO and Ford’s team facilitated visits for the Brazilians to observe U.S. major event security management as well as command and control centers during the Boston Marathon, a USGA major golf tournament, and the United Nations General Assembly. 

Diplomatic Security’s Deputy Olympic Security Coordinator Angela Brenner (center, yellow jacket) briefs Ambassador Liliana Ayalde (left), Consul General James Story (right), and Olympic Coordination Office Deputy Director Tom Pierce (second from right) on the operations and responsibilities of the Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, June 28, 2016.  The JOC had representatives from the U.S. International Security Event Group, Consular Affairs, other U.S. Government agencies and Brazil working 24/7 to ensure information flow and coordination during the 2016 Olympics. [U.S. Department of State photo]

The Olympic Security Coordination Team, alongside U.S. Mission Brazil law enforcement agencies –- which included the Regional Security Offices throughout Brazil, as well as FBI, Homeland Security, and others –- assisted with providing more than 100 security related courses; ultimately training more than 3,800 Brazilian security, military, and medical personnel. The courses varied widely and included topics such as weapons of mass destruction, document fraud recognition, maritime and airspace security management, crisis management, and combatting transnational terrorism. Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, the Brazilian government made specific requests for resources and training to the Olympic Security Coordination Team; through interagency efforts, the U.S. government addressed all the requested areas of training, which included training on protection of soft targets, counter drone subject matter exchange, and Improvised Explosive Device suicide awareness and suspicious behavior recognition courses.

During the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Diplomatic Security’s Olympic Security Coordinator Peter Ford (right) speaks with Brazil’s Federal Police Commissioner Valdecy Urquiza Júnior (left) at the International Police Cooperation Centre, August 17, 2016, following a daily briefing by Brazilian law enforcement for representatives from the 32 countries participating in the security collective. [U.S. Department of State photo]

DS also provided equipment and training for Brazilian security forces to plan for and respond to terrorist attacks. Since terrorist tactics have changed in recent years, the DS team in Brazil focused on securing “soft targets” more so than in the past. The team also developed a new concept that likely contributed to the lack of significant security incidents: situational awareness teams.

The international cooperative nature of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games contributed to the “zero” count. In addition to the Joint Operations Center, which was staffed by several entities, including ISEG and Consular Affairs, and Brazilian security officials, DS worked closely with Brazil’s International Police Cooperation Centre (IPCC). The IPCC--located in both Rio and Brasilia, Brazil’s capital city -- consisted of personnel from 32 countries, as well as INTERPOL, AMERIPOL and EUROPOL.

A DSS special agent (center) along with law enforcement officers  from the interagency conduct a site survey at the Olympic Boulevard, a venue for free live broadcasts, entertainment, and cultural and sports activities during the 2016 Olympic Games, on August 16, 2016. [U.S. Department of State photo]

Olympic Security Coordinator Ford noted that the IPCC facilitated unprecedented law enforcement cooperation among the international community and will, no doubt, be one of the most important legacies of the 2016 Olympic Games. 

U.S. and Brazilian officials faced challenges during the more than three weeks of games. However, years of security training, planning and coordination paid off. This year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games were an international success.

DSS special agents conduct a site survey at the Engenhão Olympic Stadium, August 16, 2016. DSS agents worked as field liaison officers to support Brazilian law enforcement authorities and provide security support to U.S. Olympic athletes throughout the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. [U.S. Department of State photo]

These international, interagency, and Mission-wide efforts allowed the world to focus on the games, rather than on any significant security events. Team USA’s performance was especially impressive this year. Overall during the Olympics, 213 athletes took home medals; three world records were set; and, Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps cemented his position as the most-decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals, 23 of them gold. American athletes earned another 115 medals at the Paralympics, including 40 gold and 44 silver, the most medals the U.S. team has won since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The Americans’ record-setting performance included sweeps of the podium three separate times in track and field and paratriathalon.

Volleyball referees Dan Apol (the only U.S. referee on the Olympic referee delegation for beach volleyball) and referee Kritsada Panaseri from Thailand use a Diplomatic Security  Service (DSS) Olympic coin for the coin toss between the Netherlands’ Reinder Nummerdor and Russia’s Konstantin Semenov, August 11, 2016. The coin was presented to the officials by DSS special agents assigned to provide security support for the games in Rio. [Photos courtesy of FIVB/Conny Kurth]

“I want to thank everyone in DS who contributed to our Rio Olympics and Paralympics effort. Everyone’s contribution was valuable, and we are a better organization for what we accomplished together. I also want to specifically commend our Olympic Security Coordination Team based in Rio and led by Peter Ford and Angela Brenner, his deputy,” Eustace said. “Since January 2015, they have been instrumental in every step of the process. For Peter, Angela, the entire Olympic security group withthin the Olympic Coordination Office in Rio de Janeiro, Major Events Coordination Unit, and ISEG partners, leaving Rio with a zero is just fine. 

About the Author: Aaron Testa serves as a Press Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Department of State. 

A DSS special agent (right) serves as a field liaison officer at the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana Beach during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Posted by Aaron Testa
October 10, 2016


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