If there’s one thing a city can be guaranteed when it’s awarded an Olympic bid it’s that it will be haunted by controversy over security preparations from the minute it gets the nod until the last athlete has left the stadium.
For the last two years, Dave Tyson, CSM’s Security Director of the
Year, has been examining the municipality’s security systems to
determine if it will be fit to manage the event. He says the city still
doesn’t know what all the potential needs will be from a physical
security perspective for the Winter Olympics. His department is working
closely with the RCMP, Vancouver police and all stakeholders but
candidly admits, “I don’t think anybody has a bullet-proof view of what
it’s going to look like two-and-a-half-years from now.”
Tyson notes that the world political climate could change
dramatically in two years and the key is to create a security strategy
that makes people feel secure and comfortable while keeping in mind
risks that could develop between now and 2010.
Questions about cost, cooperation with the various law
enforcement organizations and just how much will be enough are all
issues cities such as Athens and Turin have suffered through — often
building to a massive roar of criticism as the date looms closer.
Vancouver is sure to find itself under that same microscope,
especially now that the RCMP has announced the man they appointed to
head up security for the 2010 Winter Olympics has stepped down after
leading the unit since 2003.
Some industry insiders say Chief Supt. Bob Harriman did not
step down but was quietly asked to vacate the position. He will
reportedly remain in the job until a replacement is chosen.
Many in the security industry say the original budget of $175
million is not enough and, in fact, an RCMP report suggests the budget
falls short and does not account for things such as communications
equipment and metal detectors at venues. Experts have suggested the
budget should be closer to $250 million for the infrastructure,
technology and people required, especially when one considers that the
Vancouver Olympic venues stretch up to Whistler.
Vendors in the security industry have been frustrated by the
fact security organizers are treating the event as though it is taking
place in 2020, not 2010. Information on the bidding process has been
low key even though the event is two years away. Others suggest
Vancouver should take the advice of officials from Turin who felt they
were over-sold on detection systems.
However the planning goes forward, what is clear is that
having the RCMP security lead on this event vacate the position at this
stage will likely mean a spike in budget as panic sets in. As one
insider told me, “it’s a lost opportunity that will mean increased
costs due to inefficiencies.”
While the news of Harriman’s departure didn’t draw much
national scrutiny, it is certain those responsible for homeland
security south of the border are wondering who will now lead security
for the lead-up to 2010. With the U.S. border so close to Vancouver,
the Americans will not be impressed to know its neighbour to the north
has no leadership in place for what is the largest security event
Canada has staged in a long time — one the world will be watching.