COVID-19 and its future impact on major events
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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen most of the world’s events postponed or cancelled, events such as the Tokyo Olympics, Glastonbury Festival, Wimbledon, Matchroom Boxing at the O2 Arena, Mixed Martial Arts (UFC 249) and the Football (Copa América & UEFA for example) not to mention musical tours (Justin Bieber, Iron Maiden, Camila Cabello for example) and concerts and festivals (Montreux Jazz Festival cancelled for the first time in 53 years, Tomorrow Land 2020).
The question is how will the effects of COVID-19 impact future major events and mass gatherings and how will physical and technical security be impacted across the globe? With many businesses and individuals out of work who heavily rely on the events industry for their income, I know of several struggling businesses and individuals who operate on a freelance bases who hop between major events here in the GCC region and have been for years, they now find themselves out of work and are left in limbo as to when the events industry kicks off again, will it be this year or even longer? Q1 2021 for example? All of these questions are unknown at this time but one thing is certain, we will be seeing an effect long into the future on businesses and individuals.
I believe that those countries and individuals flaunting the ‘’stay at home’’ directive are unlikely to show any hesitance in attending a mass gathering, such as a concert, football match or event in the future once the pandemic eases up and their countries’ restrictions lift, however those who are taking the pandemic seriously and realise the greater impacts on their own and the general public’s health could be hesitant to attend such events in the short term future, I use the word short term as a 12 month benchmark.
Those event organisers hoping to open the doors the day after any sort of formal announcement is made that the restrictions are lifted should consider that many people will still be conscious to attend a mass gathering, let alone jump on a plane and attend an event in another country, a country which might be affected worse than the one they are departing. Considerations into the country’s ability to resume ‘’Business as Usual’’ and operate after COVID-19 is also of key importance, especially for any logistical support.
What does it mean for security?
So where does this leave event security professionals and companies? Many security businesses rely on providing resources for events and licensed venues alone and often these companies who specialise in these areas often do not supply resources to supermarkets, shops, hospitals and banks for example and if they do, they are fortunate to still have work, in some countries.
I have no doubt that the likes of musical tours and large concerts and festivals which heavily rely on sell out crowds, five-star hospitality (hotels, restaurants and flights) will be impacted severely for the foreseeable future, they have been already if you have the time to visit the Billboard website they have listed all of the cancelled tours, festivals, concerts and awards ceremonies, keeping in mind these large tours, festivals and concerts often travel with a large entourage with members flying in from different locations, often different countries and often country hop on a 24 hour basis, keeping this in mind and speaking from experience having been on tour with a recording artist covering five continents and completing over 300 live shows, you can imagine the logistical complexity in any normal circumstances, let alone during or in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s hugely important to remember that many large high-profile events rely on equipment to be moved country to country, especially with some high-profile sporting events where organisations often travel with the equipment and fly it into country ahead of their event, this often goes for large musical tours which utilise cargo flights to move equipment from country to country in a very limited time frame, often with less than 24 hours between flights.
I believe that once the events industry starts to take shape again, professional organisers will make sure they hire an experienced and professional HSE Manager who will implement additional measures to ensure crowds are protected from another ‘’wave’’ of COVID-19, whether it be thermometer guns, distribution of gloves and masks and additional screening requirements within a PSA, VSA or RSA.
All of these measures require a physical operator and, in most cases, will fall into the hands of security operatives on our frontlines to implement these measures meaning additional resources will be required.
I envisage that event organisers who in the past did not take security and safety seriously (top of their agenda) may now feel the urge to do so and invest additional budgets towards resources, it’s important to remember that in these circumstances, security operatives do not only ‘’secure’’ venues and patrons but aid in the safety of patrons and venues and often a simple presence is advantageous to assure the public.
It is important to remain positive and focused during this time and with any additional time managed wisely to either upskill, work on our BCP’s to allow us to function as effectively and efficiently as we can in such scenarios and most importantly take care of our loved ones and ourselves.
Stay healthy and stay safe.
Adam Green ASyl has been a security management professional for 18 years across six continents. Adam can be contacted via his LinkedIn profile here