RCMP plan for medium threat level during Games 

Details on security for the 2010 Games and how it will affect life in Whistler are still scarce, RCMP Corporal Manon Chouinard admitted to Whistler Rotarians this week, but some things are known for certain.

Whistler Village will not be treated like an official venue, she said, meaning there will be no barricades or fencing to get through to access the shops and restaurants during 2010. There will be official venues, such as the media centre and Celebration Plaza, within the village, which will be secured.

“The village isn’t a venue,” said Chouinard, who is the community relations coordinator for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit.

“You will be able to go and get your groceries.”

As well, residents can expect to see the same, if not enhanced levels of police, fire and ambulance services, during the Games.

The corporal also assured the roomful of Rotarians at Tuesday’s morning meeting that there will be community consultation with stakeholders in Whistler in the next two years as the police are able to share more details.

“Every day that they (the ISU) plans, they have in mind — stakeholders,” she said.

That was one of the lessons learned from the 1997 APEC summit held on the campus of the University of British Columbia, she said. The summit is remembered more for the pepper spraying of protestors and strip-searches of women, among other things.

The lengthy Hughes report from the APEC inquiry pointed the finger at poor police planning.

That’s why, said Chouinard, there are now community relations positions as part of the RCMP planning for events. The RCMP has changed the way they do the business of event planning.

“We engage with stakeholders,” she said.

The first time the RCMP ever put together a community relations group was during the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, in 2002. Corporal Chouinard was a part of that group.

She recognized there are still many unanswered questions in the community right now but the ISU is not ready to release the nitty-gritty details of how security will impact life in Whistler — details such as the logistics of filling up with gas when the only station in town is footsteps away from a major competition venue.

“You have questions about what’s going to happen to your community when the Vancouver 2010 arrives,” admitted the charismatic corporal. “Absolutely.”

The Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, led by the RCMP with help from several key partners such as the Vancouver Police Department and the Canadian Forces, is responsible for safeguarding the 2010 Games. It is planning security around the event based on a medium threat level.

“Because we can ramp up if there’s a need to and we can ramp down,” said Chouinard.

While it is not clear what a “medium threat level” is, the RCMP need only to look to recent events in China to see what could happen as that country prepares for the Summer Games. Earlier this year authorities foiled an alleged plot by Islamic terrorists, as well as an alleged terrorist airplane hijacking, which may have been attempts to blight the image of the 2008 Games.

While most experts agree that the threat to the Beijing Olympics is medium to low, there are worries that demonstrations and political and religious protestors could mar China’s world image.

In a post 9/11 world, planning for international events has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Obviously the world has changed and we need to do things differently,” said Chouinard.

Her presentation, one of the first outreach programs to Whistler community members from the ISU, also conveyed a sense of the enormous task at hand in preparing the security for the 2010 Games.

An aerial shot, for example, of the $119 million Nordic centre, called Whistler Olympic Park, speaks for itself. The venue, which will host all the Nordic events for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, is nestled deep in the forest of the Callaghan Valley, on Whistler’s southern boundary.

“What kind of challenges do you see here for security?” Chouinard asked the crowd of roughly 25 Rotarians.

The answer was obvious: the perimeter, and securing that perimeter to ensure the athletes can compete safely.

“A little challenging, would you say?” she said.

Security for the Olympic Games, she reminded, is the largest and most complex “peace-time” security operation in the world.

Members of the ISU attended February’s Super Bowl in Arizona, only to return with the realization that: “We’re not planning one Super Bowl, we’re planning 16 Super Bowls,” said Chouinard.

“Does that put things in perspective?”

Security for Olympics has been one of the biggest costs and concerns for host cities in recent years. A record $1.4 billion was spent on the 2004 Athens Games.

The updated security budget for the 2010 Games has not been made public.

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