Playing and enjoying sport in safe environments

IEC International Standards play a central role in enhancing security at sports venues

By Morand Fachot

Major international sports events attract huge crowds and universal media coverage, as well as ill-intentioned individuals bent on wreaking havoc. As such they represent a major challenge for organizers and governments. This has been the case recently following a series of terrorist attacks in many countries. Security measures for these events and other mass gatherings depend on multi-layered security arrangements that include human and technical means. Many of the technical measures that underpin such arrangements depend on electronic devices and installations. 

biometrics iris recognition Biometrics identifiers include retina and iris recognition, fingerprint, palm veins, face and voice recognition among others

Ever larger crowds

The 2016 UEFA European Football Championship held in France in June and July saw 2,4 million people attend matches in the stadiums, a 68% increase on the previous UEFA European Championship.

In addition millions more watched games on large screens in so-called fan zones in many cities across Europe.

Just before the opening of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games organizers were expecting some 400 000 foreign visitors to attend the games, in addition to many more local sports enthusiasts.

In the past Olympic Games have been marred sometimes by security incidents, like the pipe bomb that killed one person and wounded some 110 at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

However, recent major terrorist attacks have been much more deadly and have highlighted the need to provide security at all levels and in all places, not just at sports venues. 

Multi-layered approach

Ensuring proper security against possible terror attacks and criminal activities for large events requires human resources, including good intelligence, the presence of police and other security personnel and well-trained support staff on the ground.  

In late July the Brazilian authorities arrested 12 individuals on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack during the Olympics. They had been identified by the national intelligence agency (ABIN) for alleged links to a terrorist faction.

Over 85 000 soldiers and police were to be mobilized in Rio to guard the Games and to deal with a wave of violent crime. During the 2012 London Games, up to 27 000 private security contractors, police and military personnel were deployed to control access and ensure the security of athletes, spectators and the Olympic venues.

However, even large numbers of police, security personnel and events support staff need technical means to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing restricted areas and, if necessary, to be aware rapidly of any potential dangerous issue in order to deal with it quickly before it escalates further. 

Watching for trouble

Video surveillance systems (VSS) will play an important supporting role in Rio.

The leading Brazilian daily O Globo reported on 28 July that a total of 6 200 cameras, 77% more than the 3 500 devices currently being monitored online by the Integrated Command and Control Centre (CICC), would be installed. Included are 1 400 cameras installed at all the competition venues, 215 cameras set up on the routes the delegations will use, and 1 000 cameras monitoring the lobby, patio and surroundings of the Tom Jobim Airport.

International Standards for VSS are developed by IEC (Technical Committee) TC 79: Alarm and electronic security systems. The TC has published seven Standards in the IEC 62676 series on video surveillance systems for use in security applications, and is developing another one.

The IEC 62676 series is divided into 5 independent parts:

  • Part 1: System requirements
  • Part 2: Video transmission protocols
  • Part 3: Analogue and digital video interfaces
  • Part 4: Application guidelines 
  • Part 5: Data specifications and image quality performance for camera devices (to be published)

IEC TC 79 also develops International Standards for electronic access control systems (ACS) and for intruder and hold-up alarm systems. 

Controlling access

Many of the technologies used to safeguard the Games and other events and venues, in particular for controlling access for authorized personnel, the movements of individuals and other aspects, rely on standards developed by various Subcommittees (SCs) and Working Groups of ISO/IEC JTC 1, the Joint Technical Committee set up by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the IEC.

Nowadays controlling access to buildings or sensitive areas is mostly done using digital software applications with related hardware devices, such as magnetic swipe cards. Standards for such cards are developed by ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 17: Cards and personal identification

Technological solutions used to secure site areas including ACS comprising radio-frequency identification (RFID) token and biometrics.

RFID is a wireless technology enabling communication between interrogating devices and embedded electronic tags. It can be used to identify and track people and any type of product. RFID standards are prepared by ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31: Automatic identification and data capture techniques.

To control access to sites biometric solutions may also be employed.

For the London Games all workers had their hand scanned during the enrolment process to enable access to the Olympic Park. A 3D digital photograph of the hand was taken and the unique size and shape of the hand matched and linked to the individual’s smart photographic site pass to enable access. The data was encrypted, stored securely and used to provide access to the site during the construction work. Iris scanning was used on the same basis where required.

Biometrics is the responsibility of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 37, which as of July 2016 had published over 120 International Standards (including updates) and reports covering applications, exchange formats and even societal, cultural and ethical issues related to use of biometric technologies for identifying people.

Access for athletes and staff involved in the Games and other sporting events, their safety and that of spectators will continue to depend to a significant extent on systems that apply IEC International Standards. 

biometric access control London 2012 Officials inaugurating biometric site access control system before the 2012 London Olympics
Honeywell monitoring centre Security monitoring centre (Photo: Honeywell International Inc.)
biometrics iris recognition Biometrics identifiers include retina and iris recognition...
biometrics AFIS well as fingerprint, palm veins, face and voice recognition among others