Monday, July 28, 2008

the real "weak spot" for the success of Olympics

Because Olympic Games are approaching, some post will be covering the topic.
For a bizarre arrangement, the Games are mainly in Beijing, but the Equestrian Events are held in Hong Kong, right in front of my home, taking advantage of the pre-existing facilities of the Shatin racecourse...
so I can enjoy the Olympic atmosphere, just by going for a run (not for long, I suppose they will block any access to the area very soon...)

Honestly speaking, I do not see the Pollution as the main risk for the success of the Games. Unless some very nasty combination of winds from the West, bringing dust from Shaanxi to Beijing, the air should be passable...

so what is the real "Achilles' tendon" ?

..."crisis management"...

as far as I knew the way of operating of Chinese Authorities, their real weak points is the non capability to manage appropriately all the crisis and situation where the power of the crowd can go beyond their control.

So I can write here a "check list" of what will happen in case of a small or big crisis. Keep it in mind if there will be a chance to use it, because it will give you a told to analyze the situation as it really happened, without the unavoidable deformation of the press.

to take a fictitious framework from our sport, I draw the case from this news (very likely, since a direct contact between Japanese and Chinese supporters can easily degenerate).

In our fictitious case, we have therefore 2 groups of University students (one local and one of exchange Japanese students) gathered at the 35km of the Woman Marathon, with both Mizuki Noguchi and Zhou ChunXiu still in contention for the Gold Medals

phase 1) Ignorance of the "weak" signals
may be some student is drunk or maybe they start to sing offensive slogan, but the Police will not take cue from what is happening to start to "soft" action to defuse the tension.
Maybe it could be enough to ask the documents to some guy or going into the groups and speak directly with the people there in a polite manner, but it won't happen.
Frontline officers are not trained to decide on their own and usually wants to avoid to meddle into troubles if not asked. Being the situation involving foreigner, it is even more sensitive.
So the time pass by and Police at the spot asks for direction at different level of command, while maybe the situation is degenerating: the students start to dispute.

phase 2) Slow response
because of the time needed to take a decision and being worry of the political repercussion, it will take much longer than needed for the Police to act.
In the mean time, a fight broke out among the Students groups.

phase 3) tough reaction from the Police
usually the reaction of the Police is totally out of proportion with the situation: maybe teargas or armed police will try to restore the order, causing the event to completely degenerate
Since the Police is acting very tough, it may become a complete street fights among the 3 groups (Police, Jap Students and locals).

phase 4) local and international Press and TV shows up at the scene of the crisis
this is the most feared moment by the local authorities.

phase 5) attempt to stop the Press/TV from reporting
for sure, Police will try to stop the Press/TV in any way from reporting the event. Even worse, the main cause of concern will be rather to stop the TVs from broadcasting rather than tackling the real problem. Based on the smartness of the Officer in charge, it may be done smartly (maybe it is enough to place a Police cordon to keep the reporter away) or attacking directly the reporters, with a PR disaster...

phase 6) total degeneration of the situation. Police calls for additional resources and huge mobilization.
Usually at this stage it will not take long to restore the order, but the PR fiasco is already done...

I hope that the case give you a good vision of what could happen. I really hope the local Police got good direction on tackling immedatly the "weak sign" and avoid the usual PR debacle (only in 2008, they did a complete flop in several local "incidents").

For a starter, read what happened just 2 days ago when the organizer put on sale in Beijing some remaining tickets for the Games, with a poor arrangement and even worse queue management.
It could have been a small "glitch", but the poor management by the Police did generate a "disaster"

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