As the Beijing Olympics draws upon us, the obvious security envelope over Games venues provides a useful case study of inherent versus residual risk. Since the terrorist massacre of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics and in a world post-September 11, security at the Games, along with other major high profile sporting events, has become a critical function in venue and event planning. Given the international media exposure a high profile security incident would provide at the Games, the inherent risk to safety, host city reputation and the Olympic brand is enormous. Host cities recognise this risk and dedicate vast resources toward keeping the residual risk tolerable. Indeed China's security budget for the 2008 Games is rumoured to exceed the US$1 billion dollars spent in 2004 for the Athens Olympics. Monday's terror attack in China's Kashgar province, killing 16 police officers, reinforces the need for such a high budget allocation.
But what about deaths during construction of Games venues? It was reported in the New York Times in August this year that Beijing's Municipal Bureau of Work Safety had announced that six workers died and four were injured during construction of the ‘Birds Nest' stadium. They also reported that 14 workers died in Athens in Olympic-related construction accidents and one construction-related death in Sydney for the 2000 Games.
It appears that while the residual risk for Games security is effective, residual risk in Games construction safety is not. Is it that the perceived safety risk for local employees is lower, or is it that reputational and brand-related risks resulting from international public safety when the world's media is present is greater? Either way, it is perhaps time to broaden the Olympics legacy charter to include lowering risks in construction safety.