Boston is going for gold with a Summer Olympics effort, with supporters claiming the city can handle infrastructure challenges like massive air travel influx and transit congestion. But there’s another concern, one that could tip the balance from Olympic dream to nightmare: security.
Security and the Olympics have always been at odds. During the London 2012 games, for example, the security budget nearly doubled, and organizers in Vancouver came under fire in 2010 when they refused to let tourists anywhere near the Olympic flame. Many viewers believed a security breach at the most recent games in Sochi was inevitable—while no serious problems occurred, the Olympics nonetheless offer a tempting, worldwide stage for criminals.
Boston, of course, has recent experience dealing with city-wide security and Mayor Marty Walsh seems confident the city is ready to tackle this challenge. Dan O’Connell, leading the charge on the Boston 2024 bid, says that getting the Olympics could kick-start much needed projects like improvements to Logan airport terminals or upgrades to aging subway cars.
The same is likely true of security—host the games and the dollars will flow, but what happens when it’s all over? Bostonians are well aware of Sochi’s legacy and while there’s little chance that Beantown will become a ghost town, what does the postpartum impact of a purpose-built velodrome or state-of-the-art security system look like?
Right now, Boston is divided on the issue of Olympics 2024. A recent Boston Public Radio article, however, took the time to interview homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem and get her take on the matter. According to Kayyem there are an “infinite” number of security issues that could arise, but “the challenge of a big event that we are hoping to go forward with is of course you need to be secure but open. That’s the Olympic spirit.”
So what does that look like in Boston, especially considering its renewed focus on city security? Ideally, a combination of local enforcement and federal help, coupled with the use of high-quality video monitoring and other threat detection equipment. Just like the business owner recovering after a break-in, the key is to be welcome and opening to visitors but off-putting to any one who might want to cause harm.
In many respects, the best defense here is the notion of on-demand, real-time monitoring backed by technology that can actually do the job. If would-be Olympic crashers know they will always be watched and their plans likely foiled, they’ll likely abandon any efforts to cause trouble.
As for Boston at large? The Olympics are always a risky venture. Done right, however, hosting the games can yield international acclaim without risking local safety.
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