Monday, August 2, 2010

ESPN Traveler Loved South Africa

Let me introduce you to  Rick Abbott, who is head of global security and facilities for ESPN. That's a pretty big job, but when you think about how he had to figure out how to keep a crew of 350 ESPN employees safe while on location in South Africa for the FIFA World Cup this summer, it's hard to imagine how you'd even go about trying to tackle something like that.
Rick, who is as pleasant in person as he looks in his picture below, made a point of telling me how much he loved his experiences in South Africa. I wrote a story about it for Tuesday's edition of The Bristol Press (
To keep things secure, he had to deal with the FBI, the CIA and the South African police, not to mention the U.S. State Department and fellow broadcasters from Mexico and England.
Together they worked out a strategy in hopes of keeping any kind of crime at bay, from petty theft to kidnapping and terrorism.
Whatever they did, including keeping police highly visible, worked, as the games ran smoothly.
He traveled to South Africa three times, and for the World Cup, stayed about a month, so he got to know the place.
What he learned from his experiences in South Africa, Rick told me, was that ESPN can do anything. And he didn't say it in a self important way, but more in a respectful realization of the power of an entire company all working together towards the same goal.
ESPN made its coverage of the World Cup one of the company's top three priorities this year. They take this stuff pretty seriously, too. Everyone has a company ID badge and right there are the top three priorities for the year. They're constantly reminded -- often in a fun way -- of the goal.
A little more about South Africa. He said the people were warm and so was the water. The wine? Fabulous. He wants to return, but for a vacation this time, not to work. He said he'll have plenty of friends to visit and places to stay when he gets there.

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