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April 1, 2011

Olympics-themed disasters. How much should you worry? Maybe more than you are now

Get those disaster recovery plans in place now, says Gary Flood

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Olympic stadium

You work for al-Quaida and are desperate to strike a blow against the Little Satan of imperialist oppressor Great Britain. It’s hardly failed to get your attention that it’s hosting a massive international event that will be the focus of global attention next summer – the Olympics. So you get on your secure satellite phone and…

Quite a lot of people who think seriously about things like this are sure something like this is going to happen. They include people like the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and quite a few people in the City of London.

They also number among them a business continuity expert called Mike Osbourne, who is also the MD of a firm in the field called ICM, who think that all London businesses should start to be worried too.

"If you’re asking me flat out if I think something will happen – I’m going to say yes," he told CBR.

"It’s very unlikely – though not impossible – that something could happen at the site of the Games themselves; they are likely to be as locked-down as we can make them," Osbourne added. "But if I were a terrorist planning some sort of atrocity that would get the world’s attention, disrupting business life in London as much as possible, I’d do it in the weeks leading up to the event."

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But surely none of this matters to me if I am not based in the City? Osbourne says that’s shortsighted and also doesn’t factor in things like potentially massive disruption to public transport, say, which could affect staff getting in to work, utilities down and so forth.

Basically, it’s the scale of the Olympics across London that worry people like Osbourne – remember, events are happening literally across the city, from Greenwich to Wimbledon, Hyde Park to Stratford, Wembley to Horseguards Parade; 500,000 spectators, millions of extra tourists, the whole nine yards.

That also means, by the way, that disruption could be to way more than the Square Mile itself. – Or even London; there are no less than 33 UK-wide Olympics facilities of one kind or another.

"The noise level about all this has been gathering pace in the last two or three months as planners take on board what an Olympics-based event next summer could mean in terms of business continuity," he warns.

Thus the message is for CIOs in all sorts of London – maybe even Southeast businesses, who knows? – to start thinking about what they might need to do in the event of some sort of (extremely unwelcome by everyone, we should add) Olympics 2012 issue.

But – is this all a bit Y2K, a bit of scaremongering to sell DR services? Osbourne takes this on the chin. "With any kind of threat, what we’ve learned is to think more of impact than the specific danger. So you might argue we ‘wasted’ money on the issue of, say, swine flu. But then what we were really doing there was planning for significant members of staff not being able to make it into work – which happened in the severe snow."

So take your pick of what could go wrong: Olympics-related disruption, civil unrest due to anti-cuts protests rising to Greek 2009 levels, power outages. No-one likes to dwell on these things happening – but they do.

Thought-provoking stuff; well worth you taking down that BC contingency folder. Ah. You don’t have one… Possibly a task for your weekend, we think. This one, by the way – not one next summer.


If you want to research this topic more, you may find these links useful:

London 2012 Travel Advice for Business Handbook

Home Office Olympic safety security strategy

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