The exclusive report published by Israel Defense in October 2014 according to which ISDS of Israel had been selected as the integrator and chief security consultant for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro followed many long years of arduous attempts to market Israeli know-how for the benefit of the series of major sports events held in Brazil in the years 2014 through 2016 (and after a relatively limited involvement of Israeli companies in security for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June-July 2014).
The announcement that was finally issued by the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which is subordinated to the International Olympic Committee, was unprecedented: not only was the Israeli company presented as the official security supplier on the Olympic Games website, alongside the largest multinational corporations, but in order to implement the mandate awarded to it, it would work opposite dozens of Brazilian organizations and the world's leading companies. The over-all security budget for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is estimated at not less than US$ 2.2 billion. Leo Gleser, ISDS founder and the person most closely identified with the company, said in an exclusive interview pursuant to the prestigious award that he will endeavor to incorporate as many Israeli companies and technologies in the security for the Olympic Games. Along with ISDS President Gleser, Vice President Ron Shafran and CEO Tomer Fulman also participated in the interview.
Gleser says that the award is an accomplishment that cannot be taken for granted, even as far as he is concerned: "The economic situation in the world is unusual," says Gleser. "Three years ago the Brazilian economy started slowing down, along with other economies – the Chinese, the Indians, the Mexicans, South Africa – they all shifted to a lower gear. In addition to that, in order to be incorporated in the security of the 2016 Olympic Games, we were required to compete against companies from around the world, including the companies that managed security at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
"We competed and reached a situation where our proposals proved to be very attractive. The people in charge of the Olympic Games realized that the Games are going to be a giant showcase for innovative technologies and that they will have the opportunity to do things that had not materialized in previous events. The Brazilians are interested in the importation of know-how, in the importation of experience and in the importation of technology, and that is where we came into the picture. Selecting us took a very long time. They did not neglect checking even a single issue before they selected us. They did not fail to read even one word we had written. They reviewed our prices again and again, as well as the terms and numerous other issues.
"We had very serious backing from the Israeli Ministry of Economy, from the Defense Export & Defense Cooperation Division (SIBAT) at IMOD, from the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute and even from the President's Residence. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres did his best to facilitate our selection during his visits to Brazil."
So everyone was intensely involved on your behalf…
"Yes, because everyone realized that something serious was at stake here. The Brazilians asked everyone numerous questions about us during their examinations. The recommendations and references they received were important."
So what will your role be, exactly?
ISDS Vice President Ron Shafran: "This is the first time that an Israeli company enters the Olympic family in the category of an official sponsor. They tried to award a similar status to G4S at the London Olympic Games, but it did not materialize. In Brazil, we came in as exclusive suppliers. They were looking for an international company that would assume responsibility for everything associated with security consulting and the supply of security equipment for the games.
"We develop the entire security layout along with the (local) security agencies that would prepare the groundwork for the system assimilation stage, which is to begin around mid-2015 and continue up to the actual games, and, naturally, during the games proper. For this purpose, we are cooperating with other sponsors, from Panasonic to Cisco, and serve as integrators with regard to everything that is relevant, from the security concept for the games to the assimilation of systems.
"Numerous types of consultants we recruit in Israel, in Brazil and in London will be incorporated. The cumulative know-how transcends the know-how that may be gained in Israel – whether it applies to the Olympic Games or other fields.
"The professional challenge is the primary one: to take the needs and the cumulative know-how available in Brazil and back them with Israeli and international know-how. We approach this project very humbly. It is a highly sensitive world, and we understand that in order to make the best contribution, we should provide the Israeli know-how but back it up with additional international and Brazilian know-how.
"This enterprise, known as the Olympic Games, is a happy mega-event that generates massive tourism and combines sports with an international gathering and political neutrality, and the entire purpose of the security effort is to effectively support the flow of the event, establish deterrence where necessary and uphold security in the most discrete manner.
"The manpower in Brazil, employed by the Olympic Committee and the defense field, is top notch. They have a special department for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio."
In fact, ISDS is far from being a new player in Brazil. The Israeli company has a local subsidiary, which will be responsible for the security of the Olympic Games until the games come to an end. Gleser himself was already involved in securing the Pan-American Games (the "Olympic Games" of Latin America) held in Brazil in 2007, and a product by his company was a part of the security layout for the 2014 FIFA World Cup games.
Gleser has been regarded, for many years, as a leading figure in the Israeli HLS industry. He has an impressive handgun collection and his Spanish accent betrays his Argentinian origin. He also speaks fluent Portuguese and makes no effort to conceal the fact that he feels very comfortable in South America.
The ISDS head office is located in a villa at Moshav Nir-Zvi, out of which ISDS operates about 100 employees on an extensive range of assignments all over the world.
One of their projects, in Honduras, Central America, involves the use of electronic bracelets for monitoring prisoners and criminals held under house arrest conditions. However, the more significant business activities, as far as ISDS is concerned, are associated with security for off-shore drilling rigs at sea, security for civilian nuclear reactors, security for merchant ships and other HLS projects.
In the field of security for nuclear reactors, ISDS established comprehensive systems in such countries as Mexico, the USA and Brazil.
Back to Rio. What will you place a greater emphasis on in the context of your security for the Olympic Games – operating concepts or technologies?
Ron Shafran: "Both, in equal shares. We address both elements equally."
What will be the role of the local police?
"They have a department that actually integrates all of the activities associated with Rio 2016," says Ron Shafran. "This refers to all of the elements within the outer loop, including police forces, health services and the other emergency services. We provide the consulting backup to an organization that employs people who are highly trained and possess extensive security experience. This is a large-scale event that will be attended by millions of visitors. It will encompass more than 200 delegations and something like 160 installations inside Rio, from competition facilities to logistic centers and the Olympic Village. The entire system must work, in real time, in the most effective manner possible. This is the primary challenge of the event."
What about the experience they gained during the 2014 FIFA World Cup games?
Gleser: "They have tremendous experience, not just from the FIFA World Cup games but from countless mega events. We were involved in the supply of technologies for the FIFA World Cup. The Brazilians learn from everything. They know how to draw lessons. They learn from people who were on the ground. The 2014 FIFA World Cup games were held in 12 different states across Brazil, and the Olympic Games will be held exclusively in Rio de Janeiro.
"The people managing the Olympic Games today have learned the lessons of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and know that proper management of the event would lead them to manage other events – like the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan and other mega sports events all over the world.
"Generally, the Brazilians want to acquire the technologies and establish technological cooperative alliances. Take, for example, Elbit Systems in Brazil – they are very active in aviation, UAVs and other layouts. They entered Brazil 15 years ago as technology integrators.
"The Brazilians are very good at defense. As far as HLS is concerned, they seek Israeli help, owing to our experience, in order to enter this field with the most modern technologies and most advanced concepts. They selected ISDS so that we incorporate the best industries from Israel and from around the world. Everyone knows that Israel is a global leader in this field. We prove it every day."