Executive protection 2014: Key events for the coming year

January 11, 2014 - By Christian West

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2014 is here, and with it a brand new year of exciting challenges for executive protection professionals. We’re already gearing up here at AS Solution for what we believe will be our busiest year yet. Here’s the overview of the 2014 events that we’re planning secure travel around for many of our Fortune 500 clients.

Sundance Film Festival/Park City, Utah, USA/16-26 January

Nearly 50,000 people are expected to attend the hugely popular film festival this year.  Great movies, huge crowds, snowy weather and heavy traffic are all part of the festivities. Hotels will be packed – especially in Deer Valley/Park City and the Salt Lake area – as will the hard-pressed public transport system struggling to cope with the sudden rush of movie aficionados.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014/Davos-Klosters, Switzerland/22-25 January

Heads of state, corporate executives, thought leaders of all kinds and journalists get together to discuss this year’s theme “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”. For EP professionals, this massive event poses a host of unique challenges that really keeps us on our toes. Keep an eye open for our upcoming blog on Davos!

Chinese New Year/PRC, Taiwan and other countries with significant Chinese populations/31 January – 6 February

When the Year of the Horse begins at the end of January, business in China slows down and travel spikes. But the Chunyun period, also called the Spring Festival travel season, actually begins a few weeks before Lunar New Year’s day and lasts about 40 days in all. With over 200 million people vying for spots on planes, trains and highways “the biggest human migration in the world” is a challenging time to travel. Forward thinking and lots of patience are definitely required.

The XXII Olympic Winter Games/Sochi, Russia/7 – 23 February

The build-up to this year’s winter games has been anything but peaceful. North Caucasus separatists (with a proven terrorist track record) have vowed to disrupt the Games. Russian authorities have promised the most draconian security measures in the history of the Olympic movement.

General election/Thailand/2 February

Voters are scheduled to elect a new House of Representatives in the middle of yet another political crisis. The Thai Parliament was dissolved a year early after the ruling Pheu Thai party passed a controversial amnesty bill, leading to a mass resignation of the opposition and backlash from the population. On-going protests show no sign of settling down for the election.

GSMA Mobile World Congress 2014/Barcelona, Spain/24-27 February

The world’s biggest mobile exhibition draws more than 60,000 people to Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via. All the major players in the mobile field, such as Samsung, Sony, HTC, and Nokia – with the customary exception of Apple – will be showcasing their new products.

Parliamentary election/Columbia/9 March

This year’s Columbian elections (Parliamentary in March, Presidential on May 25th) will be, as former senator Piedad Cordoba recently said, “(…) decided between those who want war and those who want peace.” The most pressing campaign issue is a potential peace accord with the FARC guerrilla group and an end to the country’s 50-year-old war.

Presidential election/Afghanistan/5 April

With the twelve-year war slowly winding down (or entering a new phase?), the country is set to elect a new president this spring. Incumbent Hamid Karzai is not eligible for reelection, and there are currently 11 candidates in the race. Aside from the war itself and ongoing terrorist threats, the country faces the negotiation of a bilateral security agreement with the U.S., a worrying economic downturn and multiethnic and regional conflicts.

Parliamentary election/Iraq/30 April

This is Iraq’s first parliamentary election since the U.S. military withdrew forces in 2011. Current P.M. Nouri Al-Maliki will seek a third term amidst tensions between the three main communities: the Shi’ite, the Kurds, and the Sunni. Baghdad remains a dangerous zone with frequent suicide bombings and fights against and between militants. As of December 2013/January 2014, the city of Fallujah has fallen under Al-Quaeda control and there is now intense fighting in the region in order to reclaim the city.

Cannes Film Festival/France/14-25 May

This yearly festival is the French equivalent of the Academy Awards. Located on the Riveria, Canne’s population of 74,000 explodes to over 200,000 for two weeks. Over 27,000 card-carrying professionals, nearly 5000 journalists and 800 French police all vie for their place in the sun. Accommodations are notoriously hard to find, public transportation is erratic at best and many people resort to driving from Nice in order to even reach the festivities.

Parliamentary election (Lok Sabha, or Lower House)/India/April or May

543 seats for the 16th Lok Sabha will be voted for before May 31st. The official election dates will be announced in late February or early March. Elections take place over the course of 4-6 weeks in different states at different times. Expect travel conditions to be particularly challenging on the day of election, which will be a regional holiday, and keep informed of when this is for any city you need to visit. Book travel by chartered helicopter or jet well in advance if possible, as politicians will be tying up many of these resources as they campaign.

Eurovision Song Contest (Melodi Grandprix)/Copenhagen, Denmark/6-10 May

With over 125 million viewers, the Eurovision Song Contest will once again be one of the year’s major music events. Copenhagen’s Refshaleøen will be transformed into “Eurovision Island” for the event with restaurants, eateries, shops and press facilities right within reach. The event itself will take place at B&W Hallerne, a former shipbuilding complex that is expected to welcome 10,000 music fans. Shuttle boats will travel between the island and downtown Copenhagen every 45 minutes.

FIFA World Cup 2014/Brazil/12 June-13 July

Things look somewhat bleak for one of the world’s most viewed (and attended) events. Multiple delays, accusations of corruption, and construction-related incidents have all plagued the run-up so far. Only six of twelve stadiums have been completed as of January 2014. Analysts have also criticized transportation services, which are unlikely to support 600,000 expected tourists. Safety is a major concern, and local security companies that typically rely on moonlighting police and military personnel may be understaffed as all hands are called on deck by the authorities. The government has even invested in facial recognition systems and unmanned security robots.

Presidential election/Indonesia/9 July

Indonesia’s third direct presidential election promises to be crucial for the country when over 67 million voters cast their ballots for the first time. Riots and protests spread like wildfire in 2013 in response to corruption of elected officials and government employees, including the military. Protests and strikes have also taken place due to dissatisfaction with low wages and increasingly high prices in spite of the country’s growing economy. Violence between Muslims and Christians is another on-going problem.

Parliamentary election/South Africa/by 31 July

South Africa’s post-Mandela political situation is expected to remain largely the same, with the African National Congress and Democratic Alliance retaining most seats in the Assembly—albeit with the ANC losing some ground. A weak economy, labor disputes, gender and race-based discrimination, and youth unemployment appear to be the main causes of potential unrest in the coming year. Crime remains high both in major cities and shantytowns.

Presidential election/Turkey/August

Turkey finds itself in a tense situation ahead of this year’s election. A series of conflicts erupted following police attacks on protesters who were against development plans for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park in May 2013; over 8000 injuries and 11 deaths followed. A recent corruption probe targeting the government, and the ensuing resignation of several ministers, hasn’t helped. What next for PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his 11-year rule?

ASIS/Atlanta, USA/29 September – 02 October

The ASIS International 60th Annual Seminar and Exhibits is the event for security professionals, and will this year take place in Atlanta. Over 20,000 attendees and at least 600 companies will be there – along with your friends from AS Solution.

Presidential and parliamentary elections/Brazil/5 October

Current president Dilma Rousseff is set to run for re-election and is expected to win by a wide margin despite a growing sense of dissatisfaction in Brazil. Last year, protests started after a bus fare increase, but quickly became more about social inequality, poverty and the state of social services in the country. While the protests have stopped for now, the shadow of more potential uprisings looms over both the elections and the World Cup. Furthermore, crime and gang warfare have soared in Rio de Janeiro ever since the announcement of the World Cup and the downturn of the Brazilian economy.

2014 G20 Leaders Summit/Brisbane, Australia/15-16 November

Plan on being somewhere else than Brisbane around the G20 meetings!

Christian West

Founder and CEO

Christian has been active in the executive protection industry since the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. Upon returning to Denmark, he founded his own EP company, which he quickly grew into Scandinavia’s largest, before it was acquired by Securitas.

Christian founded AS Solution in 2003, and again in 2009 followed his international clients to the US, where he is now based. An active member of ASIS and a leader in the corporate executive protection industry, Christian has personally planned and led high-profile engagements in over 76 countries for a wide variety of corporate and high net worth individual clients, including the international roadshow for the biggest IPO in history.