How does the Department of State assist with the Olympics?


Three Diplomatic Security (DS) Special<br /> Agents discuss security arrangements inside Thunderbird Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. DS has been involved in security for Olympic Games for more than two decades, and has been the U.S. Government's security coordinator<br /> for every Olympics since 2004.  (U.S. Department of State Photo)

Three Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agents
discuss security arrangements inside Thunderbird
Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the
2010 Winter Olympic Games. DS has been involved
in security for Olympic Games for more than two
decades, and has been the U.S. Government's
security coordinator for every Olympics since 2004.
(U.S. Department of State Photo)

With the approach of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in  South Korea, Americans and sports lovers worldwide are beginning to prepare for the games. Whether they’ll travel abroad or watch the Games on television at home, the Olympic Games are a time of national pride for everyone. What many people may not know is that the U.S. Department of State plays a very important role in ensuring Americans’ security during both the winter and summer games.

Preparations for the winter and summer games begins years ahead of the opening ceremonies. The State Department’s International Security Events Group (ISEG), which is a cross department planning group, is responsible for the Department’s role within the games. It also coordinates additional offers of support from other agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Defense (DoD), Homeland Security, among others.

As the opening of the games approaches, the U.S. Embassy within the host country (in this case Seoul) broadens the consular services it provides. Several additional Foreign Service Officers are usually deployed to the host city (such as PyeongChang) if there is not a consulate present. FSO Rachel Grancio was deputized to provide consular services at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. She blogged from the site:

My team and I are here to be Johnny-on-the-Spot in case a local American needs consular services. … This is definitely one of those times when I'm torn between wanting to be really busy -- because that would be interesting -- and also hoping that I'm bored to tears -- because busy means that an American has lost his or her passport, or been arrested, hospitalized, or encountered another emergency. In fact, with in my first 24 hours of arriving at Whistler[a satellite city to Vancouver] I participated in a Crisis Management Exercise to better prepare for just those types of potential events.

As I submit this blog my team and I are heading out to tour the local police station, clinics, the concierge desks at large hotels, U.S.A. House and other venues where Americans might congregate or seek information. We'll be letting everyone know that we are here, what services we provide and hand out flyers with the numbers where we can be reached 24/7. 

Other duties for State Department employees often include ensuring that the American delegation and VIPs are properly credentialed and are able to safely travel around the Olympic compounds. The 2014 Games in Sochi marked the first games in over a decade that a sitting President or his spouse has not traveled to the games. When the President or his spouse attends a major international event like this, the hosting embassy works with the Secret Service to ensure their safety.

During the games, the State Department in Washington DC., prepares statements and travel warnings to anyone traveling abroad. These travel warning provide relevant and important information that American citizens might need to know. The points can range from the health quality of the air, regional instability, to local laws which are vastly different from what an American could expect here in the United States. In the event of a major incident, the Department springs into action to make sure American citizens are quickly and safely evacuated to safer locations.

DS Agents watch over a U.S. Olympian

A DS special agent (rear right, dark glasses) keeps watch over U.S. Olympian and gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (white jacket) at the Winter Olympic skiing venue in Whistler, Canada, February 18, 2010. DS coordinated with Canadian security authorities to ensure the safety of U.S. athletes, spectators, and sponsors during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. (U.S. Department of State Photo)

When the United States is the host country, such as the 2002 Summer Games in Salt Lake City the Department of State works to process the visa applications of visitors from around the world. This would include the athletes, officials, sponsors and other delegations. They work with other agencies to ensure the security of all those attending or participating in the games along with any international delegation’s security personal (such other heads of states).

 

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