Vancouver property set aside to stage security

Tue Dec 8, 2009 5:23pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Organizers of next year's Vancouver Olympics announced a deal on Tuesday to gain access to much-needed land next to key Games venues in the city center that will serve as staging areas for the event's heavy security.

Without the access to the 4.8 hectares of private land, which will also be used for traffic management and other back-up functions, athletes and spectators could have faced long delays in getting to and from sports events in the built-up city bowl.

"The ability to be operationally ready just took a big bump up," said John Furlong, the Vancouver Organizing Committee's (VANOC) chief executive.

"If we didn't have enough space ... people would have to come earlier and it would take longer because we have to follow very specific security protocols around the Games," he told reporters.

Some 7,000 police, 4,500 troops and 5,000 security guards are expected to be deployed as security during the Games.

The gold medal ice-hockey game and the opening and closing ceremonies, which will likely be some of best-attended events of the Winter Games, will take place at stadiums in Vancouver's downtown core.

The event in February 2010 is expected to bring 5,000 athletes and officials, more than 10,000 media representatives and 1.6 million ticket holders to Vancouver and Whistler, a nearby mountain resort where some events are taking place.

Furlong said many other Olympic cities had not faced the same problem as their sports stadiums were built in open areas. But space is very limited in the Pacific Coast city, which is hemmed in by mountains on one side and water on the other.

The land that VANOC can now use is owned by Concord Pacific Developments Inc. The real estate developer was named an official domestic sponsor of the Games on Tuesday and will also make an unspecified financial investment in the sporting event.

($1 = $1.06 Canadian) (Reporting by Nicole Mordant; Editing by Frank McGurty)