How South Korea Is Securing the Winter Olympic Games

Tens of thousands of security personnel will protect the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, along with interceptor drones, facial recognition systems, a surveillance blimp, smart security cameras and more.

How South Korea Is Securing the Winter Olympic Games

More than 60,000 security personnel are expected to protect the games, with thousands of additional special operations forces on standby.

By the time opening ceremonies get underway at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday, a force of more than 60,000 security personnel will have been mobilized to protect athletes and spectators from possible threats.

The task of protecting the Olympics and throngs of international visitors can seem staggering. Consider: Around 3,000 athletes from more than 90 nations will compete amidst an expected 100,000 daily spectators in the area around Pyeongchang, located 50 miles from the North Korean border.

All told, about a million visitors, athletes and 26 heads of state from 21 countries are expected to attend the opening and closing ceremonies and event venues.

According to organizers not only will it be the largest-ever Winter Games, but it may also be the most militarized security force in Olympic history. No matter that South Korea is one of the world’s safest tourist destinations, with low crime rates and no record of terrorist activity other than by the North.

Winter Olympics 2018

Inside the Pyeongchang Olympics Anti-Terrorism and Safety Headquarters, personnel will monitor security camera feeds and other technologies around the clock. (Photo: CTV Television Network)

Hankyoreh, a daily newspaper in South Korea, reports security operations are being managed by the Pyeongchang Olympics Anti-Terrorism & Safety Headquarters. Established in 2016, the entity oversees the cooperation of almost 20 government agencies and will operate around the clock to manage local safety control offices at 18 major sites, including event venues, accommodations and media centers.

High-tech security equipment has been widely deployed — both on the ground and in the air — to help security personnel implement monitoring and threat prevention assignments, such as preliminary screening and searches.

A tactical surveillance blimp, specially equipped with high-definition (HD) intelligent video surveillance capabilities, will surveil activities on the ground to provide continuous, real-time perspective on happenings in and around the venues. The craft is equipped with facial recognition technology and is said to be capable of detecting individuals posing terrorist threats.

“If the intelligent CCTV picks up a threat, agents at the scene will be deployed immediately to bring it under control,” a headquarters official told Hankyoreh.

Ban on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

All areas near sporting venues in Pyeongchang, Gangneung, and Jeongseon have been classified as no-fly zones — a flight ban that includes any non-approved aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

A top concern is a rogue UAV could be used to disrupt the Games with a bomb, and possibly deliver biological or chemical weapons.

Should a wayward UAV approach a no-fly zone, drone detection radar is supposed to alert authorities who can then deploy radio signal-jamming technology to disable it. Other defensive means include weaponized drones that can drop nets to disable suspicious UAVs, and special forces agents can be sent by helicopter to shoot down UAVs by shotgun.

Intelligent Security Camera, X-Ray Deployments

Nearly 1,000 intelligent video surveillance cameras will be positioned throughout Olympic security areas. Video analytics will be utilized to detect suspicious movements near the event venues and the athlete’s village.

The cameras are also equipped with detection and tracking capabilities for moving objects. Other features sets reportedly include wide-angle lenses, nighttime recording capabilities and alerts when cameras are damaged.

Costing a cool $1.4 million apiece, three X-ray search apparatuses will be used to search inside of automobiles traveling into the venues, with the capability to detect hidden people as well as guns and other objects. A search system for the lower sections of vehicles will also be used, according to Hankyoreh.

Security for the Olympics has come a long way. Check out how Salt Lake City secured the 2002 winter games here.

Preparing for Cyber Attacks

A small army of emergency response IT personnel has been assembled to respond to network hacking and other cyber threats during the Olympics, which will run through Feb. 25.

In September, Reuters reported Olympics organizers were fast-tracking the search for a cybersecurity firm to help guard against a hacking attack from North Korea. Russia is also considered a potential cyber threat. Its athletes were banned from participating in the 2018 Winter Games under the Russian flag after revelations of systematic government-sponsored doping.

Around 700 people, mostly from private security companies and government agencies, have been assembled to work on the emergency response team. Security experts will be monitoring around the clock to respond to unusual signs, including DDoS attacks and malware circulation.

Strong U.S. Security Presence

The U.S. will deploy one of the largest security forces at the Games, according to Wired. A 100-strong contingency from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) will be assisted by dozens of additional personnel.

The DSS group will work in support of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s own security detail and alongside smaller teams from other American agencies that comprise the State Department’s International Security Event Group, Wired reports. These include members of the FBI and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which specializes in satellite data analysis and global threat monitoring.

“We’re very confident in South Korea’s capabilities in staging the games,” Rick Colón, director of the Office of Protection at the DSS, told Wired. “We’ve been working very close together from the beginning, and it’s clear that the South Korean government has developed a comprehensive security plan for the Winter Olympics, as well as for the Paralympics that will follow.”

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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