As Olympics Approach, Insurance Market Offers “Gold Medal” Protection

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More than 10,500 athletes from 205 countries will come together in the biggest sporting event on the planet when the world’s attention turns back to Brazil for the Olympics in 2016.

Have you ever wondered what’s behind this competition and what kind of protection and insurances are involved? The insurance market not only insures the Olympics themselves, but also ancillary development—for example, the infrastructure investment in airports and construction. Here’s a look at some of the key risks and coverages behind the scenes.

Investment and Operations Coverage

A project as big as the Olympics can be divided into two phases: investment and operation.

Investment coverage involves guarantee insurance and insurance for property, safety, lives and employees—policies to protect investors and their hired companies (construction companies, service providers, etc.).

Operations coverage is for the event itself, addressing accidents such as fire, accidents with athletes and spectators, etc. The responsibility for this protection falls to the event organizers, such as the Olympic Committee, which may, in turn, require other insurance from government, service providers and owners of the properties.

Property & Staff

For the facilities that will host the games, direct loss to assets will be covered by Property insurance. For losses affecting third parties plus protection for the teams of support staff, Casualty/Liability products will come in to play.


What are the most valuable assets at the Olympics? The athletes, of course, and they too can be insured. Athletes can even insure their body parts. They can obtain coverage on their own, although athletes are often insured by their team or country. The vast majority of teams purchase at least general insurance. In Brazil, many athletes will have insurance similar to travel insurance, to give some assurance to the athlete’s family—at least covering the basics.


Popular unrest, protests, and demonstrations are also risks that can impact sporting events. Most establishments and stadiums are already covered by insurance. Some under construction are already protected against riot. As concern for this kind of violence grows, Political Risk insurance becomes an increasingly popular option.

Ticket Holders

Damage to facilities is covered by Property and Political Risk insurance. What about the liability to ticket holders if an event is cancelled? This can be covered by No-Show or Event Cancellation insurance, which protect against loss if there is no event at all or if a key team or athlete does not appear. This type of insurance is common in entertainment – especially for concerts by temperamental artists or events involving injury-prone star athletes.

Promotional Campaigns

Game sponsors and advertisers invest big sums of money and these promotional campaigns face the same risks that event hosts and spectators face. During the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, in the midst of the Cold War, McDonald’s did not foresee the Soviet boycott of the Games when it launched its nationwide “When the US wins, you win” campaign. Whenever a US athlete won a medal, McDonald’s customers with the game card for that event won a hamburger (for the gold), french fries (for the silver), or soda (for the bronze). When the Soviet Union did not show up, the Americans won many more medals than anticipated. The result for McDonald’s? Millions more in giveaways than they expected.

Insurance for this type of campaign is available. Here is another example. In the 2010 World Cup a home appliance store ran a promotion: with the purchase of any television, customers were entered to win one of 1,000 instant prizes. The company considered insurance for the campaign, given the popularity of the event, but did not take any. The promotion worked and televisions were sold, but the prizes exceeded the company’s expectations. Insurance would have made a win-win situation.

Kidnap & Ransom

Kidnapping insurance is also available for the Olympic athletes, technical committees, and others involved in the Games. Given the social and political forces at work in Brazil, K&R coverage is something to consider.

Product Liability

Athletes burn calories competing; so do fans cheering. Much food is consumed during the Games, and food supply companies often consider Product Liability insurance to protect them in case products become tainted and injure consumers.

High-visibility events such as the Olympics often represent a company’s largest opportunity – and also their largest exposure. Just as athletes train for the Games, the hosts and the service providers prepare in advance by obtaining the necessary insurance coverage.


JAMES HODGEJames Hodge, director for the construction division at Willis Brazil, has nine years’ experience in the insurance market. Earlier in his career, he was responsible for the facultative placement division for all business lines (Property / Liability/Energy/ Construction/Marine) and worked with risk placement in the local and international markets.

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