The big picture of security planning for major sporting events: A holistic approach


More than 135 major sporting events have been held over the past 100 years, equating to an approximate total of 400 years’ of security planning, yet there is no known standard security planning model available to base such security planning on.

With every major sporting event – from a FIFA World Cup to a Summer Olympics – each host nation has to re-invent the wheel to determine their security strategy for their particular sporting event as well as the concept- and operational plans to execute it.

This is a risky approach especially since securing a major sporting event should be aimed at reducing risk and minimising costs. At the very best, a host nation might be able to obtain some planning documents from the organising committee of a previous major sporting event. However, in the absence of a holistic model it may not always be clear whether the said planning documents cover all security functions, are integrated with other areas of event planning, possess quality content and cover the entire life cycle of the major sporting event.

Whether a nation is in the bidding phase or has been awarded a major sporting event, I constantly hears the questions; “What reference documents are available?” and “Where do we start?” Because of this, the ICSS has gathered some of the world’s top safety and security experts and developed such a model.


Over the past 100 years we have witnessed over 135 major sporting events worldwide. The likes of which include:

  • 27 Summer Olympics
  • 21 Winter Olympics
  • 20 Commonwealth Games
  • 19 FIFA World Cups
  • 17 Pan-American Games
  • 15 UEFA EURO Championships
  • 11 Cricket World Cups
  • 9 Rugby World Cups

Assuming that each organising committee spent an average of three years planning the security for their event, it equates to approximately 400 years of security planning. Unfortunately very little of this knowledge has been made available for other major events to access.

It also seems that no one has catalogued this knowledge on a continuous basis to keep track how major sporting event security has and is evolving.

It is clear that security challenges will be constant, whether it is due to ever evolving technology or the dynamics of geo-political relations. Apart from the risk profile of each event, the great watershed for security planning was definitely the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. This can be seen by the growth in security budgets for major sporting events since the 2004 Athens Olympics… Click HERE to find out more about this article