Vancouver Winter Games face no known security threats

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, February 4, 2010
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Canada's top cop in charge of the security for next week's Vancouver Winter Olympics, said Wednesday the Games faced a "low" security threat and there were no known threats at present.

Speaking in Vancouver at an Olympic briefing, Bud Mercer, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's assistant commissioner, said there has been no known threat to the Games which starts February 12 with the opening ceremony.

"Have we received a credible threat to the Games? No, we have not," said Mercer, also the head of the Vancouver 2010 Intergrated Security Unit (VISU).

"There isn't a week goes by that I don't get e-mails, and they're e-mails coming from anywhere in the world, where somebody creates a conspiracy theory and says this is some thing we should look at."

Unless the security threat rose to "medium" Mercer said the force should be able to stay within the 900 million Canadian dollars budgeted for Games security. He added the figure, which has been roundly criticized by pundits as excessive, was determined with plans for a medium threat level.

"Obviously, if the threat level changed, we'd have to regroup and put Plan B in place. And if that were to happen, the costs would go up. Based on today's environment, unless there's a change either domestically or internationally, I would suggest we are able to stay within the $900 million."

During the February 12-28 Games taking place in and around Vancouver and the ski resort of Whistler, about two hours northeast of the city, about 15,000 security forces made up of police, military and private guards are being deployed.

Mercer's job was made easier on Tuesday when it was announced that US President Barack Obama would not be attending the Games' opening ceremony. Instead, US Vice President Joe Biden will attend and stay in the city for a few days, according to a US consulate official. He will be one of about 40 overseas dignitaries in attendance needing extra security.

"It would have made things more complex but we would have done it," Mercer said, when asked about Obama's decision skip the Games.

Unlike other Winter Games host city, it was also announced there were no plans to close the Vancouver International Airport during either the opening or closing ceremonies.

Vancouverites got a preview of how controlled the security would be during the Games earlier this week when VISU demonstrated to the media its screening process for spectators at the Pacific Coliseum, venue for the figure skating and short-track speed skating.

"The public should treat going through security at a venue just like they would getting on an airplane," said Inspector Keith Davidson, VISU's private security coordinator. "That means getting there early, bringing the smallest bag possible and emptying pockets of metal items. This will help us get you through quickly."

He acknowledged such security levels were not something Canadians were accustomed to for a sporting event, but pointed out it had become standard practice based on past Olympic Games and international competitions.

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