Background Checks at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games
August 13, 2008
On a hot Atlanta summer night on July 27, 1996 at approximately 1 am, I was walking out of Centennial Olympic Park having enjoyed a unique Olympic experience. I was a young kid making my way in the sports marketing industry and my company put me on loan to McDonald’s Corporation to aid them in their marketing efforts at the Olympics. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Starting in January of that year, I was sent down to Atlanta once a month to learn about the venues where McDonald’s would be offering food service. Everything from the Olympic Village to various Olympic venues. All I had to do was check a couple venues each day to make sure that everything looked good (signage, marketing assets, etc.). In return, I had free reign of the place and was given tickets to some great events including the Closing Ceremonies, the gold medal basketball game between Team USA and Lithuania, Michael Johnson’s gold medal 200 meter run and Carl Lewis’ gold medal long jump to name a few.
In May or June of that year, my trip to Atlanta had me visiting ACOG (Atlanta Committee of the Olympic Games) headquarters so that I could be properly credentialed in order to gain access to these venues. I filled out a questionnaire, provided some information about myself and was fingerprinted. I was told a background check would be performed before a credential could be issued. Sounded cool. I wondered what exactly they were checking, but didn’t give it a second thought. Someone mentioned that it went through the FBI and the Secret Service. Who knows? Little did I know that this concept of a background check would play a large role in my professional life just a few years later.
Anyway, fast forward to the day of the 27th, my first of 10 days in Atlanta. I went straight from the airport to the Olympic Village. All I had to do, was flash my newly issued credential to get in. I was on “Cloud 9” and realized that this experience was one the few people would ever have. Some other day, I’ll bore you with all the details of my Olympic experience.
At approximately 1:20 am as I was walking into my hotel, I thought I heard thunder. We all know what happened next. I was awakened by my boss at around 2:30 am wondering if I was okay. Of course, I was okay. He told me to look out my window. What a war zone! Over the next several days, we experienced bomb threats and hotel evacuations. Today, in this post 9-11 era the whole ordeal seems benign.
To the point. The U.S. government performed what I hope was a thorough background check on me and all others needing access before providing credentials to the various restricted areas. I have no idea how thorough the checks were, but they got lucky in that the incident that occurred took place outside of a restricted area. As the summer games go on in Beijing, I wonder what type of background checks they have performed to ensure that everyone remains safe. With people from all over the world, I am hopeful that they performed proper due diligence.