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Feb. 11, 2010

Are safety and security the same thing? The security budget for the 2010 Olympics is rapidly approaching $1 billion. Am I safer for $1 billion than I would have been for $500 million? Where does the money come from and where does it go? How much of it is real money and how much of it is simply an accounting exercise?

February 11, 2010 
By Paul Dixon

In the
early years of the 21st century we find ourselves fascinated by
terrorism, as individuals and as a society. Unfortunately, for many of us, our
opinions on causes and solutions are shaped primarily by popular culture such
as the CSI TV shows and the exploits of
Jason Bourne. We look for simple solutions to complex issues and rely on
high-tech tools to replace both ingenuity and hard work. It may be entertaining
on screen but it doesn’t work too well in the real world.

security officials are relying on more than 900 security cameras and
sophisticated perimeter alarm systems to augment the thousands of police
deployed throughout the Olympic venues. Who is monitoring the cameras? That’s a
lot of monitors to keep an eye on. In the make-believe world of TV and movies,
we are expected to believe that any video camera anywhere in the world can be
accessed instantly by the forces of good in the fight against evil. Sorry, but
it doesn’t work that way.
London, England, may have the most surveillance
cameras per capita in the world on a permanent basis, yet they played no role
in preventing the 7/7 transit bombings of 2005 that killed 52 people. Having
identified those responsible, police were then able to recreate their travel
route by reviewing surveillance footage, an exercise that took scores of police
officers thousands of hours.


Olympic video system costs a lot of money and most, if not all, of that
equipment is installed on a temporary basis. That’s a huge chunk of the $1 billion.
There are communications system upgrades, some temporary, some permanent. The
1,500 portable radios purchased specifically for Olympic security will be
turned over to local agencies to upgrade their equipment as a direct legacy.


The cost
of renting three large cruise shops to act as floating dormitories for up to
6,000 police and military personnel in
Vancouver is $79 million, though most of
the military are actually sequestered at a number of sites around metro
Vancouver and in the Whistler area.  That is an actual, real money, out of pocket
expense. The private security personnel being hired specifically for the
Olympics represent a “real”, out of pocket expense, while costing the salaries
of the police and military against the Olympics is more of an accounting
exercise. The police and military are going to be paid, no matter what. It’s
just a matter of who takes that responsibility for a few weeks. Same with the
Griffon helicopters flying overhead and the CF-18s on the tarmac at YVR. They
were going to be flying somewhere in
Canada no matter what, it’s just that
for now someone else is paying for the gas.

So that’s
a bit about security and the money puzzle. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at safety.

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