Profs: Olympics offer security challenges, goosebump moments

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From emergency preparedness to the impact the Games will have on Chinese police to the "goosebump moments" viewers crave, Rowan University professors are available to address issues surrounding the XXIX Olympiad.

From emergency preparedness to the impact the Games will have on Chinese police to the "goosebump moments" viewers crave, Rowan University professors are available to address issues surrounding the XXIX Olympiad.

Emergency preparedness is a major challenge at Olympic Games
While athletes from around the world have been training and exercising as they prepare to excel in the competition, so too have been emergency management agencies and personnel, according to Robert S. Fleming, a professor of management at Rowan University and recognized expert on emergency management and terrorism preparedness.
 
"The comprehensive planning efforts surrounding the Olympics have incorporated classical risk management activities in the interest of ensuring that those attending the games, as well as participating athletes, will have a safe and memorable experience," Fleming says.
 
Fleming points to the importance of learning lessons from other soft targets, such as past Olympic Games and other major sporting events. The development and implementation of an integrated protection plan wherein all agencies and emergency responders - whether from law enforcement, fire or emergency medical services communities - are  "on the same page," is critical, he says.

 

"The same spirit of international cooperation that underpins the Olympics has contributed to collaboration and assistance by other countries as Chinese authorities prepare to host the upcoming Olympic Games, which will be instrumental in ensuring that the Olympics are both safe and successful," according to Fleming.

Viewers will crave those moments that give goosebumps
Despite 24/7 sports networks, the infusion of professional athletes in the Games, and "doping" controversies, fans of sport are still looking for those classic "goosebump moments" that define the spirit of the Olympics, says Michele DiCorcia, a professor of health and exercise science at Rowan. 

Think Mark Spitz's seven swimming golds in Munich. Or Nadia Comaneci's seven perfect 10s. Or Mary Lou Retton taking the all-around gold in gymnastics. Or Greg Louganis winning gold after whacking his head on the diving board. Or Kerri Strug sucking up the pain of a broken ankle to nail a vault and lead the U.S. women's team to gymnastics gold in 1996.

"That's real sport right there," says DiCorcia, adding that "goosebump moments" for fans happen when an athlete is at the top of his or her game, physically and mentally.

 "Typically, what separates Olympic gold and silver and bronze from the others on any day is their mental game," says DiCorcia, who studies sports psychology and has examined the concept of hardiness in individual and team athletes, both male and female.

"For Olympic athletes, it's not only how they perform physically that matters. It's also how they handle the stress, how they handle the mental aspects. Coaches train the athletes physically, but they also train them mentally.

"Some athletes can get to a point in their routine where they don't think about it. The routine just flows. It's beautiful."

For fans, the fun of the Olympics is watching the athletic performances, but, also, knowing the competitors' personal stories, the "up close and personal" details that make their exploits even more thrilling, DiCorcia notes.

"We want to know more about the athletes," says DiCorcia. "It's the Social Identity Theory. We want to be part of something that's bigger than we are."

And when an athlete succeeds, those "goosebump moments" stay with us for years, says DiCorcia.

"It's as powerful for us as witnessing the first steps after the lunar landing," she says. "We relive those moments."

Olympics will test Chinese police

Chinese police have been preparing to host the Olympics for years, but the Games will still test security efforts, says Rowan University professor Allan Jiao, who studies Chinese policing.
 
"Chinese police have examined security operations in previous Olympic cities and have tried to learn lessons from them," says Jiao. "But China, as an emerging power, does not have experience in organizing such events.

"Police have to walk the fine line between security activities that are comfortable or tolerable to Westerners and the need to ensure true security in a very politically-charged Games environment," Jiao continues. "At the end of the day, I believe they will choose security at all costs, even if it means they may project a heavy-handed image."

When it comes to hosting the Games, the organizational structure of China's policing system will be an advantage, says Jiao, a professor of law and justice studies in Rowan's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
 
"China has a centralized national police system," says Jiao. "That makes it easier to organize and coordinate their operations."

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