In June, CCICADA faculty and students fanned out at the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games in Princeton, NJ, to closely observe crowd control and security measures. The data they collected will be analyzed and used to publish a report on how to make future games safer for athletes and their friends and families.
The field research took place among approximately 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches, thousands of spectators, and countless volunteers from across the country who descended on New Jersey during the June 14-21 games.
This was our nation’s third such Special Olympics Games. Future games are now scheduled to be held every four years. The first two games were held in Ames, Iowa (2006) and Lincoln, Nebraska (2010).
As the 2014 games approached, it became clear that CCICADA could contribute to the review of event operations from its experience and expertise in the area of stadium security best practices and analyses of security strategies.
With an introduction from Michael Tobia, US Department of Homeland Security, CCICADA Director Fred Roberts and faculty and students met with Chief Robert Belfiorre, Security Commissioner, and Lillian Narvaez, Chief Operating Officer of the 2014 USA Games, to outline how CCICADA might assist in this way.
Security protocols established for the 2006 and 2010 games were already in place, so it was decided CCICADA would apply its expertise by documenting sound strategies employed and challenges encountered during the 2014 games. This documentation will be published in a Special Olympics 2014 USA Games After-Action Report. This report will provide the New Jersey organizers with feedback on how the security planning and strategies unfolded and were adapted during the week. It will also serve as a guide for the Games’ future host cities and organizers.
To collect the needed data, CCICADA researchers left their desks to engage in first-hand, field-observation at the games. This approach is a cornerstone of CCICADA’s philosophy that the ultimate value of research is directly tied to a deep understanding of the practitioners’ real-world experiences and viewpoints.
Most of the research focused on two venues: the Special Olympics swimming and track and field events at Princeton University; and the softball, baseball, soccer and tennis events at Mercer County Park.
These venues gave CCICADA researchers a chance to observe security and event operations where event access and spectator viewing are more open than the controlled environment of a stadium or arena. CCICADA researchers also visited the other event venues at least once during the week.
Researchers observed parking and pedestrian flows, access control, security checks, event attendance and other areas that could be helpful to post-event reporting. CCICADA is compiling this rich data and will meet soon with Chiefs Belfiorre and Narvaez to discuss the format, content and timeline for the post-event report.
As part of the review, CCICADA visited the main Command Center at Rider University and the venue Command Centers located and manned at each venue site. CCICADA talked with law enforcement officers deployed at the sites as well as the venue Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
The field research was also of great benefit to the CCICADA students involved, said CCICADA Director Roberts, who shared field-observation responsibilities with students and faculty.
“This was an amazing opportunity for them to do real field work that will result in a tangible report that can help make USA Special Olympics Games even safer in future years,” Roberts said.
CCICADA researchers enjoyed many other benefits. The spirit of camaraderie, friendship and competition prevailed. Lifetime friendships were made, and the researchers were treated to some great moments among competing athletes. Most of all, they enjoyed the many, many high-fives from star athletes from across the country, some from as far away as Alaska.