Risky Rio

Risky Rio Olympic Games

If I was offered the position of project manager of an Olympic Games, I would have to think long and hard before accepting it, especially the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games. The two aspects that would give me sleepless nights are risk and stakeholder management.

There are over 200 countries, sending more than 10 000 athletes, with vast numbers of spectators, media, sponsors, advertisers, vendors, contractors, etc. The list seems endless, but each stakeholder has needs which must be identified and satisfied. Stakeholder management can quickly turn into a nightmare. Here in South Africa the e-Tolling of Gauteng’s freeways is a classic example of this.

If the stakeholder management looks challenging, then the risk management looks downright daunting. Here are some of the major risk sources that I have identified for the Rio games:

  • Zika virus
  • Doping of athletes
  • Late construction of facilities
  • Political instability
  • Pollution of water
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Crime
  • Risk management starts with planning a strategy to deal with risks. Then one identifies the sources of risk with their specific risk events, and analyses the probability of each event occurring and how big its impact could be.  
  • No matter what we do, we cannot eliminate all risk. Specific risk events can be avoided, transfered, mitigated or accepted. Risks should be assigned to risk owners of the parties best equipped to cope with them.

    One can respond to risk pre-actively i.e. do something to reduce the probability and impact of the risk event before it happens. An example of this would be to establish a disaster management unit to deal with emergencies. A reactive response would be to send ambulances to a bomb blast site to transport the injured to hospital. 

    A trigger is a warning that a risk event is about to happen. A distress call from an aircraft pilot to the control tower is an example of a short-term trigger that alerts the rapid response squad to impending disaster. A weather forecast predicting heavy rain or snow is a longer-term trigger.

    Project managers often respond to risk by planning contingencies such as inserting a time buffer to cater for delays, a tolerance in the product specification to allow for random variations, or budgetary reserve to provide for price increases.

    A common pitfall is to neglect to review the identified risks at regular intervals. We live in a dynamic world where the risk profile changes almost on a daily basis. Project managers can keep on top of things by holding regular risk review sessions and delegating responsibility for monitoring and managing risks to a risk owner.

    Yes, life is a risky business, especially travelling.  If you are flying to Rio, you can relax, because on a commercial airline your chances of being killed are less than winning the lotto, which is about 1 in 14 million.  However, if you are driving by road, the World Health Organisation estimates that there are 1 ,25 million deaths per year globally - one person is killed every 25 seconds. So take care when travelling on our roads, just like managing projects, it is a risky business.

    Life is full of risks, which not only involve threats, but also opportunities. Yes, going to the Rio games is risky, but holds the opportunity of experiencing the world’s most spectacular event. 

    To assist you in managing the risks and opportunities in your projects and in your personal lives  ProjectPro is holding a risk management workshop on 22-23 September 2016 in Gauteng. Visit www.projectpro.co.za or email training@projectpro.co.za to register.

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