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.

Advertisement




“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.

Advertisement




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 [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

Advertisement




That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

Advertisement




Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]