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Insuring Winter Olympics brings host of unique risk management challenges


Hosting and insuring the Winter Olympics bring a host of distinct risk management challenges.

Problems caused by weather and the logistics of putting on events and protecting spectators in mountainous or potentially slippery and dangerous areas are uppermost among the risks the Winter Games can pose, experts say.

“Winter Olympics have their own complexity because of the weather,” said Rob Barron, assistant vice president at Lockton Cos. L.L.P. in London.

While perils such as a natural catastrophe and earthquake typically would be covered under cancellation insurance policies, for winter games there are additional risks to be considered such as too much or too little snowfall, Mr. Barron said.

Games organizers typically take steps to address such potential problems by, for example, ensuring they have access to artificial snow. Still, there is the risk that prolonged unsuitable weather could lead to the cancellation of an event, he said.

The risk of avalanche is another concern for Winter Games, said Richard Tolley, Birmingham, England-based leader of Marsh Inc.'s sports and events practice for the Europe, Middle East and Asia.

High winds also could cause problems for events such as ski jumping, Mr. Tolley noted.

Insurance coverage for unfavorable weather conditions can be included in cancellation policies, said Andrew Duxbury, underwriting manager of contingency and special risks at Munich Reinsurance Co. in London.


During Winter Olympics, adjustments to competition schedules often are expected because of adverse weather, Mr. Tolley said.

Television networks covering the games would plan for such adjustments, he said, but multiple changes to competition timings can cause problems for television coverage, he said.

When insurance underwriters are looking at covering snow-based events, they would assess the ability of a venue to put on such events — for example, whether they have previously hosted World Cup or other international events, said Chris Rackliffe, political risks and contingency underwriter at Beazley P.L.C. in London.

Sochi, Russia, he said, has not previously hosted international snow-based events.

The frequency of spectator injuries typically is higher at a Winter Games than other events because of the risk of slipping on snow and ice, Marsh's Mr. Tolley said. So organizers and insurers would take this into account, he said.

Other safety challenges posed by the nature of Winter Games is the need to erect grandstands on the sides of mountains and get power to mountaintops in sometimes difficult weather conditions, he said.