TerrorismDeterring Terrorist Attacks in Sports Megaevents

Published 26 July 2021

Large sports events – the Olympic Games, the Superbowl, the Soccer World Cup – are ideal targets for terrorists. What is the best method to identify the most effective defense measures to minimize the chances of a terrorist attack during a sports mega-event?

Sports mega-events, such as the upcoming Olympic Games, are ideal targets for terrorist attacks, due to their visibility, size, and number of people involved. Sports mega-events differ from other well-studied counter-terrorism analysis due to the defensive measures being made public and prioritizing deterrence against any attacks because of the breadth of the event. All concerns about security at the Tokyo Games have been focused on the pandemic, neglecting the risk associated with terrorist attacks.

A new research paper, published in Risk Analysis, stresses the relevance of the security preparedness.

The paper proposes a method to identify the best defense measures to minimize the chances of a terrorist attack during a sports mega-event. This method identifies how to allocate defense resources to manage risk while considering multiple attack scenarios. The advantage of using this method is that the defense can understand the strategy of the attacker.

This method has been applied to real-world scenarios, such as planning for the 2016 Brazilian Olympic Games. The 2016 Olympic case study showed a non-linear relationship between deterrence and budget expenditure.  It is possible that high levels of deterrence could be achieved with a small budget.

Sports-mega events remain an active target for terrorism and must be properly protected. This research develops guidelines for future counter-terrorism operations to not only protect the public, venues and athletes, but to reduce cost and increase defense efficiency.