Vancouver counts the cost of high security

Thu Feb 4, 2010 7:13pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The threat of a terror attack on the Vancouver Olympics is considered low but Canada is still spending far more to protect the event than it did to build the venues where athletes will compete.

Airport-style screening for spectators at venues, divers patrolling the harbor and hundreds of police from across the country are all part of one of the most extensive security operations in Canadian history.

Some critics wonder if the primary target of the vast net is not potential international terrorists but rather potential local protesters angry that public money is going to the Olympics and not into social services.

"As I speak to you today, there is no specific threat against the Olympics," Michel Cote, a spokesman for the Integrated Security Unit told reporters this week in a briefing on spectator screening procedures ahead of the February 12-28 Games.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also says she is not aware of any special concerns about the Games. U.S. officials are working with Canada on Games security because of Vancouver's proximity to the border.

The Canadian government has budgeted C$900 million ($852.3 million) for security, compared to the C$580 million spent to build and upgrade the venues where athletes will compete in Vancouver and in the mountain resort of Whistler.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee's operating budget for the Games, not including security, is C$1.7 billion.

Some 15,000 police, soldiers and private security guards will be deployed and will sleep and eat in three rented cruise ships.   Continued...