For tackling Olympic-sized risks head-on
All eyes are on the athletes at big sporting events, but security expert Marina Tranchitella has racked up quite a few medal-worthy achievements behind the scenes. Among her notable efforts: keeping the stars and spectators safe at two of the world’s most high-profile events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“I remember when I was a little girl watching the Olympic Games with my father and gymnastics competitions with my twin sister. And there’s no doubt these experiences drove me toward the sports career,” Tranchitella says. “I always dream big, and when you land roles with the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, you’ve reached the top.”
She got there by mastering the intricacies of navigating contingencies, preparing for emergency scenarios and keeping risks at bay.
“Problems happen,” she says. “What makes an event successful isn’t the lack of crises—it is a quick and high-level response to them based on good processes.” Here are five project roles that defined—and advanced—Tranchitella’s career:
Hospitality manager, 2014 FIFA World Cup
The chance to deliver a dynamic fan experience for the sport’s premier event was quite a score for the lifelong football fan. Less than three years into her career, she was part of planning a spectacle that involved 3.4 million fans across 64 matches. The challenge taught her to consider the full spectator perspective—from door to door.
“The event on the field of play is the main experience. However, that experience starts when you leave your house or hotel, and it ends when you return there,” she says. “All these plans had to consider and mitigate all the risks—a safe route, organized ticketing, meeting points and catering.”
Security manager, 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee
With all eyes on Brazil, Tranchitella had to prepare more than 2,000 police officers for the nuances of event security, training them on risks to the venue as well as to spectators. She worked on stress-testing the operational plan. During one competition, tennis, she oversaw entry and exit for the 10,000-seat main court, two overlay courts, seven more courts and six warmup courts. She also served as the coordinator of the security command and control center, which required real-time collaboration with the main operations center.
“From there, we could have control of all the venues, including the standalone venues, in four regions in Rio de Janeiro, plus the cities that played football matches, including more than 45 venues,” she says.
The adjustments were constant, but the games unfolded without major incident. “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”
Project manager, Fortius: Safe Olympic Games Amidst the Chaos
Tranchitella didn’t write the book on the 2016 Olympics—but she made sure it got published. While the games were going, she collaborated with authors Luiz Fernando Corrêa, Mário Sérgio Duarte and Henrique Borri, helping to arrange interviews, track down information and ensure accurate reporting. The skill she improved most throughout? Thoughtful communication with stakeholders.
“The integration of intelligence agencies and public security forces is fundamental to the success of the operation. However, as public agencies, they’re directly linked to the government. And, that month, we would suffer a presidential impeachment. We had to rewrite several parts of the book, as we did not want to have any political connotations, even though we knew the stories were intertwined. It was quite a challenge.”
Security manager, 2018 Summer Youth Olympics
Crossing borders for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina meant navigating cultural and professional barriers. As Tranchitella coached her new team on security protocols, she won over Argentine intelligence agencies and police forces by illuminating how she delivered results at previous events.
“The main challenge was to be a woman, Brazilian and not from the military,” she says. “But if you have knowledge, no one could disagree with you without good arguments.”
Executive manager of operations, Sport Club Internacional
In her current role, Tranchitella oversees a 50,000-seat stadium in Porto Alegre for a professional football team. She manages the entire project portfolio, including competitions, security, marketing, transportation, technology, logistics, accreditation, access, media and spectator services.
Yet even with her track record, she sometimes still encounters assumptions in a male-dominated sports environment.
“Whenever I travel with the professional football team, people ask if I am the press professional,” Tranchitella says. “When I explain that I am the security professional, there are a lot of amazed faces.”
“What makes an event successful isn’t the lack of crises—it is a quick and high-level response to them based on good processes.”
Q&A: Marina Tranchitella on working under pressure and simplicity
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was interviewed for PM Network® to talk about what I love most—risks at sporting events. I got to share the story with Helmut Spahn, head of FIFA security. It was a chance for me to show that I like to work under pressure and that I have some ease in dealing with crisis management.
What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?
Loyalty—to your peers, to your purposes and your values. With loyalty you can deliver value to your stakeholders. If we were all loyal to the projects, we would go further and faster. I have no doubts.
What famous or historic person would you want on your project team?
I wish I had worked with Steve Jobs. Beyond all the company’s brilliant history, he had a mantra at the company to keep everything simple. And for me what is smart is simple—everything from how packaging is easy to open and how intuitive products are to use.