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Vijay Goel: Will We learn from the Incident?

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A sample Accreditation Card from London Olympics: AT means Athletics- Sport, OLV means Olympic Village- Venue (Image Credit: Pinterest)

Media these days has been debating and debating hard about how Mr. Vijay Goel, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports of India disgraced the nation by entering into the non-permitted zones of Rio 2016 Summer Games. So, was/is Vijay Goel the only/first person who did not follow the accreditation limitations and was/is it the first time any case like this happened with an Indian in the center of such controversy?

What is an accreditation card:

Before going into details about the issue related to the Minister, let’s first talk about the accreditation card.

There is a well spread notion that accreditation card is a permit to enter into any sporting event, it is not.

It is the restriction card which stops people from entering those areas where they are not supposed to. Let me further tell you why it is so: any sporting event requires various teams to work simultaneously without disturbing one another. Let me go further with illustrations:  within the premises of any sporting event host stadium or what we call in event’s term, a venue, there is a production team which is producing the event for broadcasters, on some other part of same campus is a ceremonies production team which is delivering its final rehearsals for the opening or closing moments of the event, and likewise there is a broadcasting team in action with their scheduling and other activities.

These were just a few of the examples I have for you, for, there are many other stakeholders of event; security, operations team, spectators, VIPs, Media, to name a few other parties. What if there is a merging of some of these teams during the time of their operations, production activities or any other activities: a mess, right?

Yes, that’s why an accreditation card is developed by the Organising Committees to restrict the access or again, in event’s term, to implement access control measures.

These accreditation cards are distributed to different parties/teams or stakeholders involved. Some basic things shown on the accreditation cards are the color strip (color code of a particular zone) at the bottom front of any such cards as well as the number coding like 1, 2,…etc. These two things define the areas of access. Some of the most generic color codes are Blue for Sports areas (there are different kinds of Blue used in case the Organising Committee wants a more detailed zoning), Orange for Operations area, Green for Media area, Purple for VIP/VVIP areas, and likewise. Like what I wrote about the blue, some of the organising committees go on more detailed on defining the zones. And then the Number system further details the Zoning within a zone.

Why is it so important & must be followed:

Now let’s discuss why we should abide by the zoning done in our accreditation cards. Any event has a crowd management plan along with evacuation plan to take care of any exigencies.

These plans have detailed demarkation of areas where the crowd from a particular area are to be evacuated to, initially, and how these people will be taken out as per priorities and protocols- and not to mention, are based on the access control function.

These plans are so detailed and well devised that these have the exact number of footfalls of a particular day at the event, with zone or area wise bifurcations. So, if a secure area near VIP zone is created for a footfall of 2000 people, and we have say 3000 or 4000 people in that zone, there will be a security issue. A generally applied process in cases, where people without access are required “operationally” in those zones, involves a request made to the Organising Committee for Upgrade Cards which when granted add these zones to the existing access zones defined by the original accreditation card.

The issue:

Mr. Goel reportedly entered restricted zones at multiple times along with his group of people who were not even accredited for those zones. These people even acted rudely with the event officials of that zone.

Result:

Mr. Goel was warned off withdrawal of the accreditation card issued to the Minister in a letter from the Continent Manager Ms. Sarah Peterson to the Indian Chef de Mission, Mr. Rakesh Gupta.

Why this is not shocking:

Having been in the profession of organising sporting events for close to six years or so with most of these events hosted at different places in India, I have personally seen people from different client groups or stakeholders teams trying to enter into non permitted zones, blaming the organising committee staff when caught, threatening and doing all kind of stuff to create nuisances. These stakeholders included Spectators, Media, VIPs, Games Family (generally the designated people from International and National Federations, National Olympic Committees, etc.), Sportspersons, Security (which is the first party of any access control thing) and even from different quarters of organising staff as well. In one of such cases, we were reported badly by an English daily for not allowing its correspondent enter non-permitted zone.

If you want to see a true picture of the degree of shamelessness, enter the VIP Lounge of any sporting event and check the accreditation cards of people present over there. Another place where you can see a true picture is the highest priced seating area of any sporting event hosted in India.

We can expect from the case at Rio 2016 Summer Games involving Mr. Goel to teach us an important lesson of abiding by the access control parameters of major sporting events. Will we learn, I doubt, for we are a nation not good at abiding by the rule and regulations or I would go further with my bluntness to say that we take pride in breaking the rules & regulations of the place we enter.

So, here am I asking this question to everyone who enters a sporting event as some stakeholder: are you ready to make a change to the situation?