Case #1582.0

Security Preparations for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games (A)

Publication Date: November 01, 1999
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This multi-part case tells the story of security planning for the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, focusing particularly on two themes: the difficulty, in the highly-decentralized US federal system, of identifying a lead body of law enforcement officials to make key planning decisions, and the question of what sorts of threats should and can be anticipated. Specifically, the case describes tensions which arose among city, state, and federal officials and the combination of personal animosities and interagency rivalries which made the establishment of a workable security planning process so problematic that Vice President Al Gore found he had to intervene with fewer than eight months to go before the start of the games.

Learning Objective:
Although in part personal in nature, the planning problems reflected a broad and important question in security planning: should preparations be made for a variety of worst-case scenarios, such as a variety of potential terrorist attacks, or should events such as the Olympics simply be viewed as much larger versions of standard sporting events, necessitating conventional crowd control and search procedures. Ultimately, when a bombing occurs in Atlanta's Centennial Park in the midst of the games, the security questions loom large. The case raises the question of whether or not the bombing revealed a failure in security planning. See also cases 1589.0 and 1590.0. This case is part of a series of cases developed for the Kennedy School's Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness, a program examining planning for a wide range of public safety emergencies, including potential domestic terrorism.

Other Details

Case Author:
John Buntin
Faculty Lead:
Arnold Howitt, Richard Falkenrath
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
U.S. Department of Justice