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Monday, January 19, 2009

A System for Complex Event Management

It is expected that about 2 million individuals will visit Washington DC on Jan 20th. This will not be the largest event that draws pedestrian traffic. Each year Saudi Arabia hosts over 3 million pilgrims in Makkah and its surrounding areas for the Hajj worship activities. The Saudi's can attest that is is by no means an easy job, to keep the crowds safe, moving and able to do what needs to be done with ease.

The inauguration is a little different and less complex that Hajj in a sense that the largest part of the event is confined to the Mall and mostly static - i.e. folks are sitting or standing to witness the President as he gives his speech. Whereas, the Hajj is a more dynamic experience. Pilgrims move back and forth between Makkah, and the nearby mountain of Arafat and the valley of Mina on the outskirts of Makkah, 8 km away. Among the pilgrims are also celebrities such as Presidents and leaders of Muslim countries, businessmen, athletes, scholars and other well-known public Muslim figures who have intended to perform their pilgrimage. So the complexities of the inauguration might be much simpler than that of Haj, yet the organizers and teams overlooking its management have put a great deal of effort in organizing it that is worth discussion.

I share a few images - courtesy of the Washington Post - of how the event is organized illustrating security checkpoints, seating areas, entrances, exits, rest areas, vending, etc.. You can call these mission diagrams or context diagrams, at the end of the day the represent the high level architectural overview, which is worth appreciating as it reflects the amount of effort out into managing an event effectively.

The Saudi Government as well has recently taken extra ordinary measures to control the Hajj traffic and ensure safe experiences for the pilgrims. What is interesting is that the Hajj planning never required the closure of any streets in Makkah near or around the Holy Kaaba, unlike the inauguration plan, nor has it required security checkpoints such as those in the inauguration, other than guards at the entrance of the Grand Sacred Mosque for visual inspection.

This is a very interesting domain that is worth research, and I am sure there is a lot to learn from both the Saudi and American experiences.

Update: 3/22/09 - There is a discussion on linkedin related to major event management, you can follow it here, if you are member of "Project Manager Link" group.

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