Kennedy School Case Sheds Light on Atlanta Olympics Bombing

June 6, 2003

Accused 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber, Eric Rudolph was arrested earlier this week after eluding authorities for years. The case had raised multiple questions about how the perpetrator was able to enter Centennial Park and plant the bomb that killed one person despite extensive security measures.
A 1999 Kennedy school teaching case examines and explores those security preparations for the Games and whether or not a failure in planning resulted in the security breach.
This multi-part case focuses on two themes: the difficulty in the highly-decentralized US federal system of identifying a lead body of law enforcement officials to make key planning decisions and the question of what sorts of threats should be and can be anticipated.
The case describes the tensions that arose among city, state and federal officials. It explores in depth how personal animosities and interagency rivalries made a workable security planning process so problematic that Vice President Al Gore had to intervene just months before the start of the Games.
Although some of the issues that arose were partially personal in nature, the planning problems reflected a broad and important question in security planning. Should preparations be made for a variety of worst-case scenarios, such as terrorist attacks, or should events such as the Olympics be viewed as much larger versions of standard sporting events requiring conventional crowd control and search procedures?
This case is part of a series of cases developed for the Kennedy School's Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness, a program examining planning for a wide range of public safety emergencies, including potential domestic terrorism. Funding is provided by the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
The Kennedy School Case Program is the world's largest producer and repository of case studies designed for teaching about how government works and how public policy is made.

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