Risk Management

5 Times Animals Posed Risks to International Games

Critters of all shapes and sizes have presented unique risk management challenges for sporting event organizers.
By: | June 28, 2018 • 5 min read

Over one month, 32 teams from around the global compete in a total of 64 matches, spread over 12 venues in 11 different cities. At least 1 million spectators will descend on Russia to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup live, while millions more view from living room couches and barstools around the world.

Any event on such a scale comes with unique risk management challenges.

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“The challenges are unique to when and where an event is held,” said David Boyle, contingency underwriter, ArgoGlobal. “The organizing committee for an international sporting event like the World Cup has to think about the safety of players, staff and spectators, the political climate and any potential for civil unrest, cyber exposures, environmental exposures and legacy exposures associated with facilities abandoned once the games are done, among many others.”

But one that even the most astute of risk managers may overlook? Animal exposures.

“You have to think about the welfare of any animals involved in the event itself, as well as the threats to human welfare that local wildlife may pose,” said Joanna Makomaski, president, Baldwin Global Risk solutions, and a member of the Organizing Committee of the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games.

Here are some ways that critters of all shapes and sizes have presented unique risk management challenges for sporting event organizers:

1. Kangaroo goalie interrupts soccer game in Australia.

A local marsupial couldn’t resist getting in on the action at a National Premier League soccer match in Canberra, Australia on June 26. After clearing a fence, the ’roo hopped onto the field and took up residence in front of a goal post. A pickup truck was eventually used to chase the animal away from the game.


Fully grown kangaroos can range from five to seven feet tall and weigh in at 60 to 200 pounds. In addition to powerful kicks, they can deliver deep gashes with the nails on their front paws. Getting too close risks serious injury.

While this was one match and not a multi-event spectacle, it demonstrates that the security of outdoor venues should consider threats beyond human beings.

Stadiums for events like the World Cup or Olympics are often erected solely for the purpose of those games, and may be intruding on the natural habitat of a variety of creatures. Event organizers have to consider not only how their presence impacts the environment, but how the environment might in turn impact the games.

2. Geese halt men’s water skiing in Pan Am games.

Water skiers at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto were similarly interrupted by local wildlife. This time, a flock of geese decided it wanted a front row seat to the men’s slalom event. While the geese didn’t pose as much of a safety threat, their interruption does have consequences for the outcome of the competition and the organization of the games.

One Chilean skier, for example, had to restart the course after a goose blocked his route. He could argue that the distraction threw him off and lead to a poorer performance. Or, if he did well, his competitors could allege that the second chance allowed him an unfair advantage.

In the end, disputes could come down to faulting the organizing committee for poor planning.

Any delays caused by the roving geese could also impact scheduling of events for the rest of the day, which could in turn affect the plans of third parties like TV broadcasters, food and drink vendors, or even spectators.

3. Wild dog euthanizations draw international ire at Sochi Olympics.

Ahead of the 2015 Winter Olympics in Sochi, local authorities planned to put down more than 2,000 stray dogs roaming the streets, fearing they could be a danger to visitors.

David Boyle, contingency underwriter, ArgoGlobal

After a few video-recorded euthanizations went viral, animal rights activists launched counter campaigns and began rounding up the dogs themselves and moving them to shelters on the outskirts of the city. But not before the government’s actions gained worldwide criticism.

While the presence of the dogs ultimately did not interrupt the Games or pose a safety threat to visiting spectators, they did open the door for condemnation of the local authorities and potential protests.

It’s incumbent upon the organizing committee to communicate and coordinate with local authorities to manage any safety risks and determine the best course of action.

“Communication with local regulators and law enforcement is absolutely critical to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding a safety and security plan,” Boyle said.

4. Animal athletes in Rio come with an Olympic-sized price tag.

The set of challenges changes when the animals are the athletes.

More than 200 horses competing in dressage, jumping and evening in the 2016 Summer Olympics had to travel to Rio de Janeiro from 43 countries, requiring freight planes outfitted with temperature-controlled, custom-designed horse stalls attended by specialists called “Flying Grooms.” A report by the Miami Herald said their transport cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000 per horse, mostly covered by the Olympic Organizing Committee.

The Committee is also responsible for the horses’ on-site stay.

To stock each horse’s 170 square-foot stall, the Committee reportedly shipped in 50 tons of Timothy (a type of hay) from the U.S., 10 tons of Bermuda grass, three tons of alfalfa, four tons of carrots, a half-ton of apples, and 6,000 pounds of oat and corn cereal grains.

According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, top-range show jumping horses at the Olympics range between $700,000 and $15 million in value, so the stakes for protecting these animals are high.

5. Trained monkeys take up security posts.

You’ve seen bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport and patrolling venues. Organizers of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, however, took it a step further.

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Athletes complained that the intrusion of wild monkeys, snakes and dogs was making their living quarters unsafe and threatened to boycott the event. So organizers turned to an unconventional yet simple solution.

They recruited local Langur monkeys to drive the offenders off.

Langur monkeys are known for their aggression, which makes them suitable defenders, but are also known for intelligence, which makes them amenable to being trained. Handlers from the Delhi suburbs were brought in to scope the athletes’ village and keep the more dangerous predators away — a more effective and cost-conscious solution than hiring extra security workforce.

In the case of this year’s World Cup, no known animal threats have yet emerged — except a cadre of creatures allegedly able to predict winners and losers. The only risk they pose, however, is to the wallets of superstitious sports bettors. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at kdwyer@lrp.com.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.