The 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver was largely a success. Well, let's say nearly a success, especially if you consider the uncooperative weather and the death of luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia. I guess what I should say, is that on the security front, the Olympics were successful.
A few weeks ago I wrote a follow-up story about the Olympic Games and discussed the city's strategy to keep citizens and visitors safe. I spoke with Kevin Wallinger, the director of emergency management for the City of Vancouver, who was involved extensively in the planning and preparation for the Olympics.
He told me that one of the biggest challenges was developing the communication channels for various agencies. To support that effort the city renovated its emergency operations center (which is co-located with its 9/11 center) to better monitor the Games. All of this obviously costs money. And a lot of money. The EOC itself was a $1.5 million project. The city also deployed a temporary 100-camera video surveillance system that required a fairly extensive network be put in place (fiber ain't cheap folks and neither is wireless).
Overall, Vancouver officials said the cost of security was around the $900 million (Canadian) mark. That's no small sum, obviously. And that final price tag was five times what Canada estimated when it bid for the Games, according to this Reuters article. That's a huge difference and I'm guessing Canadians aren't so thrilled about it, especially now that they realize they'll actually have to pay for it.
Today, the Finance Minister is partially blaming increased security costs on the higher-than-expected pricetag of the Games:
“We did go over because of the added security costs by an additional amount that took us up to the $765-million total,” he added. “We have always been clear that there are other things that we would do to leverage the Games.”
But, in my humble opinion, Vancouver is not taking measures to leverage some of those security components. For example, those 100 cameras that the city installed in its entertainment district, well, those cameras are sitting in a warehouse now, totally unused.
Although, to be fair, the city has made some effort to make back some of that investment. As reported by SSN, the city is selling off some of the equipment in an auction. Recently, it opened up the sale of a 1,000-plus camera system to be sold piece-by-piece because it couldn't find buyers to take the entire load. But, is that really getting the most out of its investment? Obviously not. It seems to me the city would be better served by actually using some of this technology. I bet most cities and municipalities would die to have access to this kind of equipment and the infrastructure to boot. But, because Canada has so many restrictions on privacy (they even have a "Privacy Commissioner"), they're unable to maintain those systems in the city.
So, I don't buy it Mr. Finance Minister. Don't blame security for your sticker shock.