Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

In the first in our ‘Is it safe to …?’ series, we asked a range of experts if it is safe to go to the Olympics this summer. We asked what risks visitors might face and what they can do to mitigate those risks – essential reading if you are heading to Rio!

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tto1_piko_logoTravel Operative

Email: editor@traveloperative.com
Website: www.traveloperative.com
Twitter: @travel_ops

The Travel Operative is a website produced by people who have spent many years working behind the scenes in the security domain. Together with their extensive travel experiences, they provide free detailed analysis of location-specific threats and security insights for travellers.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

We measure travel safety by looking at the contributing factors and historical reporting of security incidents. As such, we assess a HIGH travel risk for those staying in Rio during the Olympic Games. We do expect the security measures adopted by Brazilian authorities to mitigate these factors somewhat, although we are not confident that petty criminals and kidnappers will be deterred altogether. As such, we are recommending that all travellers take the necessary precautions by both reducing time spent amongst large crowds (risk of petty crime) and avoiding unusually quiet zones (risk of kidnap). The ongoing Zika transmission also presents a health risk that needs to be seriously considered by some members of the community.

What are the biggest risks?

We assess that travellers are most likely to encounter petty crime, particularly in areas surrounding the sporting venues and major transportation hubs. We also expect criminals to target locations with a visibly lower security presence and focus on ‘soft’ targets, women and the elderly.

One cannot rule out kidnap for ransom, or express kidnap, reported to have been carried out by taxi drivers. There is also a risk that the ongoing transmission of Zika will spike during the Olympic Games due to the influx of international visitors.

What are the overlooked risks?

The Travel Operative believes that ‘kidnap cells’ may have been planning to target the Olympics for some time. These cells may have enlisted the assistance of ‘official’ informants and are likely to employ sophisticated methods to target individuals. The current Ecclestone case demonstrates the risk to high profile individuals and their families. We may see a sharp increase in attempted kidnappings, particularly if the Ecclestone case results in a financial windfall for the captors.

The Brazilian authorities are not overly concerned about the risk of a terrorist attack. The nation does not have a history of international terrorism, although the recent detention of ISIS-inspired individuals does illustrate the presence of a threat. Due to the international visibility of the event, we assess that a small scale lone-wolf style attack is possible.

How should people mitigate this?

To mitigate against the risk of kidnap we recommend that travellers reduce their ‘signature’ as much as possible. This involves being aware of your surrounds, integrating within your environment and reducing your footprint online. We also recommend that visitors change their routine on a daily basis and avoid predictable patterns. Always use a hotel taxi or trusted transportation provider in Rio and avoid publicly displaying characteristics of wealth, such as designer watches or expensive cameras.


N Elliott bio picNicole Elliott, Special Risks Analyst at red24

Email: kre@red24.com
Website: www.red24.com
Twitter: @KidnapRisk

Nicole Elliott is the Special Risks Analyst at global risk management company, red24. As a member of red24’s kidnapping response, or Special Risk team, she focuses specifically on the identification and analysis of regional and global KRE, extortion, piracy and wrongful detention threats, as well as related security risks; these include the activities of drug-trafficking, criminal and terrorist organisations. Nicole has a background as a political risk analyst, monitoring regional safety, security and travel-related developments in MENA, and subsequently, Europe and Russia. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of Safe Travels Magazine or red24.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

As with most business and recreational travel, the security concerns associated with the 2016 Rio Olympics are relative; the potential for travellers to be targeted/affected will largely be based on the individual(s)/company’s profile and preparedness. A number of security threats are identifiable; these include existing risks associated with the security environment in Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in Brazil, and specific concerns associated with large-scale sporting events. However, these threats are assessed to be manageable, provided pre-travel planning is undertaken and basic security precautions are implemented once in country.

What are the biggest risks?

Brazil’s persistently high levels of criminal activity will pose the most considerable security risk during the Rio Olympics. Petty and violent crime is an existing concern in the country, including in Rio de Janeiro.  Despite the increased police presence, opportunistic gangs and well-organised criminal syndicates will be motivated to target visitors to the event due to their perceived wealth and vulnerability, which will make them easy targets in the eyes of criminals. Opportunistic crime forms, such as short-term express/lighting kidnapping, robbery, bag-snatching and a variety of scams/frauds will pose the primary concern within tourist areas; however, more violent crime poses a risk in outlying, lower-income areas, including favelas. Although express kidnapping is more likely, the threat from traditional kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE) should not be ignored, especially to higher-profile individuals and/or companies with a longer-term, identifiable presence in the city.

Potential security risks that are often overlooked are those which result directly from an individual(s) behaviour and subsequently puts them at an elevated risk. Some examples include travelling independently at night, or whilst intoxicated, carrying conspicuous monies/jewellery/cameras on one’s person, indiscriminately sharing personal information or getting into altercations with strangers. These types of situations all hold the potential to escalate into a far riskier scenario.

What are the overlooked risks?

Cybercrime, including virtual kidnapping and cyber extortion, is an existing security risk within Brazil and the wider region, which travellers to the Rio Olympics should remain cognisant of. Unsecured, online computer usage and social media activity may make travellers (and potentially their wider family/colleagues/dependents) vulnerable to being targeted by criminals. Robust online security precautions should be implemented at all times. Acts of terrorism, including potential short-term hostage-takings, pose an additional potential concern to visitors at the Rio Olympics. This is due to the high-profile nature of the event and the large number of foreign visitors it will attract, rather than the presence of an existing elevated terrorism threat within Brazil.

How should people mitigate this?

As mentioned, pre-travel planning, including the identification of potential security risks and implementation of strategies to reduce them, is key in ensuring the safety of oneself, one’s family/travel companions or employees. When it comes to physical risks, basic security awareness is advised; avoid travelling alone, pre-organise transport from a reliable source, remain aware of what is happening around you and remove yourself from any situation which makes you uncomfortable. Having an agreed upon set of signals with your travel companions and predetermined emergency meeting points, can be useful should a crisis occur. In terms of online security, the use of unsecured WI-FI in public places should be avoided as a precaution; travellers should also remove geo-tags on social media posts and try to avoid sharing any information or images online that may increase their vulnerability in reality. If you have specific concerns or require support, a risk management company, such as red24, can assist in identifying solutions. Non-clients are welcome to access red24‘s Rio Olympics briefing for further information regarding security risks at the event and advice.

Click here: https://www.red24.com/members/indepth/2016_rio_olympics.php


NomadSOS - croppedDanny Kaine, Founder and CEO at NOMAD SOS

Twitter:    @NomadSOS
Website:  www.NomadSOS.com
Skype:     Danny.NomadSOS
Cell:        +52-984-210-7409

Nomad SOS is a veteran owned company that provides travel safety and emergency assistance to travelers worldwide. Our members receive Travel ID, an integrated medical ID and photo ID card.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

I am personally going to the Olympics, both for business and pleasure, so it would be hypocritical for me to advise against it. I’m traveling to Brazil as part of a Security Advance Team, and then will be staying on both to enjoy the Olympics, and as support in the event of a major incident. Over the past few months, I have read several intelligence reports on Brazil, in particular Rio de Janeiro, and spoke to people who are already on the ground providing security services.

What I have learned from my analysis of this information is that it is traveler beware. Yes, your travel risks increase by traveling to Brazil, there have already been several incidents targeting athletes and visitors arriving prior to the Olympics. Should this stop you from traveling there? In my opinion no. I just advise you to use caution, be prepared and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Don’t carry valuables with you or large sums of money. Don’t get drunk. Don’t be loud and obnoxious. Don’t make yourself a target. Try to blend in.

What are the biggest risks?

Of course at an event as large as the Olympics, the biggest risk and fear is always terrorism. Unfortunately, this does not mean an organised group, it could be a lone wolf attack. Recent events in Nice, France is proof that it doesn’t take much to create mass casualties, mayhem and worldwide shock. You cannot guard against this. Yes you can be vigilant, but you can’t be everywhere, and watch everyone at once. Be vigilant.

There have already been several cases of express kidnapping and street robberies, including reports that they were carried out by police officers and the military, or at least people wearing police and military uniforms. I believe this will be common throughout the Olympics, both before and after, as people filter out of the country. Brazil is expecting over half a million tourists to attend the Olympics, that is not including the Athletes and support staff. A honeypot for a city, and country rife with crime and corruption.

What are the overlooked risks?

As with all travel, road safety is unfortunately going to be a major contributor of injuries for travelers. Approximately 50,000 people were killed in Brazil in 2015 as a result of road traffic accidents. When you couple this statistic with the fact that an estimated 60% of tourists travel without travel or evacuation insurance, financial risk is also going to be a major overlooked risk for medical costs.

Zika Virus is at the forefront of people’s minds who are traveling to Brazil, and while it is still categorised as a travel risk, there are ways to mitigate it. Wear mosquito repellent, close hotel room windows, and use protection during sex, even after you have left the country. Be aware of the water, only drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes at bars and restaurants if possible. Also choose where you eat wisely. Traveler’s diarrhoea is a sure way to ruin any trip.

How should people mitigate this?

As with all travel, you can mitigate your travel risks, even before you travel, by being prepared. Here are two posts I have previously written that will help:

DON’T let your guard down, not even for a second. By all means enjoy yourself, but please use some common sense. Don’t walk in unlit areas at night, especially by yourself. Don’t leave your drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. Keep your valuables hidden. Don’t carry large sums of cash. Keep your cell phone charged. Carry photo ID with you at all times.


Michael Baney at Allan & Associates

Email: mbaney@allan-assoc.com
Website: www.allan-assoc.com
Twitter: @A2Globalrisk

Michael Baney is a Washington D.C. based political and security risk consultant specialising in Latin America. Michael works at Allan & Associates, a security risk management agency, which provides a wide range of protective services from travel risk assessments to crisis management response.

What are the biggest risks?

Rio de Janeiro is home to several gangs that carry out kidnapping, carjacking, and armed robbery, and to such groups the Olympics promise a tantalising opportunity to target ill-prepared foreigners. The oldest and best-established gang is the Comando Vermelho, which exercises control over high risk favelas in the city’s Zona Norte and Zona Oeste, but is also capable of conducting serious crimes, including kidnapping for ransom, throughout much of the city. Of particular concern to overseas visitors should be criminals using motorcycles to approach and attack victims before extracting, while there have been a number of cases of tourists being attacked after being inadvertently led into favelas by their GPS devices – most Brazilians take long detours to avoid these areas, which are not always clearly identifiable on maps.

There is also a significant risk of terrorism during the Olympics. In June, Brazil’s intelligence agency confirmed it had intercepted Islamic State (IS) communications transmitted in Portuguese, and while IS sympathisers arrested in July were decidedly amateurish, there is still the realistic possibility that a better-organised group or determined individual remains undetected. It must be assumed that any terrorist actor targeting the games would attempt to cause maximum disruption with mass casualties at a high profile location.

What are the overlooked risks?

Brazilian police and security forces present under-appreciated risks to overseas visitors, as many are incompetent, corrupt or complicit in organised crime. Foreign nationals in need of emergency assistance cannot be guaranteed an appropriate or professional response. Illustrative of such risks is the case of a New Zealander visiting Rio for the games who was subject to an express kidnapping by two members of the Military Police. After subsequently expressing reluctance to report the crime, the Rio tourist police allegedly responded that they understood his hesitancy, as they too fear recrimination from the Military Police. Unfortunately, this fear is well-founded and similar incidents involving foreign nationals are possible as the games progress.


Mickey Winston profile picMickey Winston at FocusPoint International

Email: mwinston@wwfocus.com
Website: www.focuspointl.com
Twitter: @mickfpi

FocusPoint is a Global Specialty Risk Consultancy with a focus on Travel Assistance/Crisis Response. We worked in over 100 countries last year and have been responding to crises and evacuating persons for over 30 years.

Mickey has over 25 years in the security industry and has held management positions with several Fortune 100 companies and spent over 10 years managing security for a high net worth Family managing all aspects of both personal and corporate security for their financial firm.  He has extensive experience in corporate investigations, crisis management, physical security and executive protection.  Mickey is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, serving 7 years as both an infantry NCO and a Marine Security Guard at US Embassies.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

In my opinion, you can travel to pretty much anywhere, depending on your appetite for risk and willingness to implement security measures to ensure your safety.  With regards to Rio De Janeiro, I think it’s safe to attend the Olympics.  The chances of being a victim of a terrorist incident are slim, but the chances of being a victim of a kidnap, robbery or violent crime are more likely.

What are the biggest risks?

The level of street crime is dangerously high and although there will be a massive police and/or military presence in and around the Olympic venues, other areas of the City will not have coverage.  There have been several reports of athletes being victims of express kidnaps and robberies pre-Olympics, and this will probably increase during the Games.

What are the overlooked risks?

While everyone is focused on crime and terrorism, I think the risk of political unrest, getting caught up in some kind of violent protest action is high.  Travelers could unwittingly be cut off from their hotels or groups and then be vulnerable to injury or arrest etc.  The probability of a vehicle accident and/or medical mishap occurring is very high.  The availability of quality medical care and emergency response services will certainly be tested throughout the Olympics.

How should people mitigate this?

Have a plan.  Ensure your plan extends beyond the sights and sounds of the Olympic experience.  Situational awareness is key.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Know the contact numbers for your Embassy or Consulate.  Make sure your mobile device works overseas and you know how to use it locally in Brazil.  Identify medical facilities ahead of time and make sure your insurance will cover you if needed.  If your existing insurance will not cover you, purchase protections that will.  Keep abreast of changing threat dynamics through available media outlets – newspapers, television, social media, etc.  Secure transportation ahead of time and avoid public transportation as much as possible.  Know what to do and where to go if a crisis event occurs during your Olympic experience. Speak with hotel staff or Brazilian friends about what is going on.  Stay away from the area of official Government buildings that might be the focus of a protest or terrorist incident.  Make sure you can get in contact with your fellow travelers, groups in case you get separated.


SIRISKShane Lloyd at SI Risk

Email: info@sirisk.uk
Website: www.sirisk.uk
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sirisk-ltd
Twitter: @SphericalRisk
Website: www.sirisk.uk

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

With all the negative press about Rio at the moment it is not surprising that some people are choosing to stay home for the Summer Olympics in Rio this year. But should all this hype about violence, crime and a shattered healthcare system put you off a trip to Rio? In short, the answer is no. As with all big events, worries about travelling to and around the area are nothing new. Brazil had the same problem during the build-up to the World Cup in 2014, but it went without a hitch! By using common sense and being vigilant there is no reason to miss out on visiting a fantastic city.

What are the biggest risks?

It is not a secret that Rio can be a dangerous place. Crimes such as muggings are common, often occurring in broad daylight and with little consequence to the assailants. Criminal gangs are also rife and gun crime is common, particularly in and around the favela’s – so stay away from these areas. If you are in any doubt about dangerous areas to go, then please get in touch at tasc24.com and we will be able to help guide you in the right direction. As unemployment is at an all time high it has contributed to the low level crimes and begging. No matter how hard the Brazilian Government try they are not going to get rid of all Rio’s problems before the Olympics begin. So, be aware of your surroundings at all times and never go out alone. Keep a close eye on your belongings and be aware of pickpockets, no matter how sweet the little kid looks!

You don’t want your trip ruined by illness so always drink bottled water and be careful what you eat. There is also the recent outbreak of the Zika Virus that the world is talking about, but unless you are planning to be or are pregnant then the disease should not disrupt your trip. If you are concerned, speak to your doctor at your pre-travel check and take precautions (shown below) to prevent being bitten by a mosquito.

Another worry is terrorism. Brazil is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies and is not currently being targeted by any known radical groups, but the Olympics make for a very attractive target.  Recently 12 people were arrested in connection with planning an attack on the games and ISIS has made known calls for its supporters to attack or disrupt the games.  The local military and police staff are currently protesting against poor working conditions and pay.  These protests have led to the belief that security services may not be adequately staffed or even prepared for a targeted attack of this nature.

What are the overlooked risks?

One thing that many tourists fail to consider is how safe their devices are. Cybercrime is a growing concern in Rio, so don’t connect to unsecured networks and make sure you back everything up before you travel.  Another thing that is commonly overlooked at big events such as the Olympics is the capacity of mobile networks. Thousands of tourists and athletes will be travelling to Rio and will be calling family and friends to let them know they have arrived safe. Although Rio has been preparing for the scale of people entering the city, they have yet to test the ability of the networks, so high usage could crash the system. When they can’t get through to their loved ones they will try again, making the situation worse. If this does happen, the government may shut-down the network to all but the emergency services, leaving tourists isolated and their families back home worried.

How should people mitigate this?

Safety tips for travelling around Rio

  • It’s best if you pre-arrange your transfers, confirming the driver’s details and asking for an English speaking driver if possible.
  • Never go out alone and always tell others of your plans
  • Only take enough cash for the day
  • Dress down and leave expensive (or expensive-looking) items at home.
  • Cameras and backpacks attract a lot of attention, so shopping bags can disguise items you are carrying
  • If you unfortunately do become a victim of a robbery, slowly hand over the goods. Muggings can often involve weapons- so don’t be a hero!
  • Only use registered taxis- try to book them rather than hail off the street
  • Don’t use the regular buses after dark
  • No late night walks on the beach
  • Stick to drinking bottled water and keep an eye on your food and drink when eating out

Tips for zika virus prevention

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–registered insect repellents,
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin where possible
  • Avoid standing water e.g. flower pots, barrels, jars etc

If you have any other concerns about travelling to Rio or anywhere else in the world then please visit tasc24.com to see how we can help make your trip memorable, for the right reasons!

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