World Cup: Brazil's small security firms get ready

Brazilian football fans Image copyright AFP
Image caption Brazilian authorities are hoping that the vast majority of the population will get behind the World Cup

With the 2014 World Cup kicking off in Brazil in three weeks' time, Marcos Oliva is preparing for a busy tournament.

The 45-year-old runs Manto Negro Servicos (MNS), a small security company founded in Rio de Janeiro in 2002.

The firm, which has 10 bilingual managers, has contracted 1,000 temporary staff to handle increased work during the month-long event.

MNS may be a small operation, but it has some very high-powered clients, including World Cup organiser Fifa, and visiting officials from Australia and France, whose national teams have both qualified for the tournament.

For Fifa, MNS will be providing security for the "Fan Fest" area on Rio's Copacabana Beach, where matches will be shown on a big screen.

Mr Oliva, who is also a serving officer with Rio's military police, says: "It's going to be a big moment for us - there's a big demand for work, and it's a great opportunity for us to grow, and to show what we can offer.

"We expect an increase in work of between 50% and 60%, because the demand is big. And the service has to be the best."

Giant operation

With protests - some violent - continuing to take place across Brazil by people angered by the high cost of hosting the World Cup, security during the event is going to be a big deal.

Add the fact that there are up to 50,000 murders per year in a country that continues to be bedevilled by violence and crime in general, and you can understand why the Brazilian government is spending 1.9bn reais ($860m; £509m) on a major policing operation for the tournament.

Yet in addition to the 150,000 troops and police officers that will be on duty, more than 2,000 private security companies, often small firms like MNS, will also be at the heart of the operation.

Image caption Marcos Oliva says the World Cup will showcase his company's capabilities

While Brazil's small-scale security firms cannot compete with the nationwide reach of their larger rivals, many make up for this by employing highly experienced and knowledgeable staff, such as individuals who have previously worked for the armed forces or the police.

This, as in the case of MNS, enables them to secure high-profile clients.

And with no less than 600,000 overseas visitors set to attend the World Cup across 12 host cities, there is a lot of security work to share around.

Olympics to follow

Brazil hosting the World Cup has also seen security sector entrepreneurs from overseas arrive in the country to offer their services and secure business, such as British couple Mark and Tanya Harris.

They set up their sports and security consultancy, Foot in Brazil, in Rio at the end of last year, and have seen demand swell since the start of 2014.

The pair, who have no direct employees, are helping teams, organisations and delegations plan their stays in Brazil, including carrying out risk assessments and managing private security.

Among their clients are media companies, sponsors and VIPs.

Mr Harris, 32, a former British Army officer, and Mrs Harris, 35, who previously worked for the British Olympic Association, says the main security concern is the potential threat of protests or other disturbances.

After the World Cup, Foot in Brazil will turn its attention to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics in 2016, but Mr Harris says he hopes the company will continue beyond those Games.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protests against the World Cup are continuing across Brazil

"Foot in Brazil was formed because of the major event opportunity in Brazil with the World Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games all taking place in a two-year window," he says.

"However, we have looked at this as a long-term project and will assess the opportunity to continue to do business in Brazil as we approach 2016.

"With the infrastructure legacy that has been created from these major events we hope that Brazil will continue to bid for and attract major sporting events."

'Image problem'

Mario Baptista de Oliveira, who is general director of Grupo Protege, one of Brazil's largest security companies, offers an interesting insight into what foreign clients are requesting from his company and its many smaller rivals.

Despite efforts in recent years by authorities in Rio to remove drug gangs from the city's favelas or shanty towns, a policy called "pacification", Mr Baptista de Oliveira says important visitors for the World Cup want to be as far away as possible from such areas.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Brazil is putting in place a major security operation for the World Cup

"Brazil's image abroad is very bad, it's criticised a lot for crime and drugs," he says.

"In Rio, the big worry is the favelas. We're asked which are the best hotels far away from the favelas, which are the most secure restaurants to eat in."

While both authorities and commentators in Brazil are hopeful that the World Cup will be both peaceful and successful, and football-loving Brazilians get enthused by the tournament, Paulo Ricardo Franco, regional director of Grupo GR, a Sao Paulo-based security firm, says the sector is ready for anything.

"The importance of private security is about prevention," he adds.

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