With today’s opening of the Winter Olympics, Canada is preparing for the biggest domestic security operation in its history, says the Los Angeles Times. It’s a $900-million policing nightmare that takes in 3,860 square miles of downtown stadiums, remote woodland valleys, and miles of urban waterways. The military contingent requires nearly twice the 2,500 soldiers Canada has in Afghanistan. Police and contract security agents must screen up to 1.6 million ticket holders and protect 5,500 athletes and officials — while preparing for domestic protesters, who a year ago announced preparations for “Riot 2010.”
Vancouver’s location just 30 miles from the U.S. border could elevate the threat of a terrorist attack. U.S. authorities are staffing a $4.5-million, multi-agency Olympics Coordination Center in Bellingham, Wa. “Of the six Western countries threatened by Al Qaeda, Canada is the only one so far not to be hit. And in view of our role in Afghanistan, that can’t last forever,” said Prof. Peter St. John of the University of Manitoba. He said the main security challenge is protecting the 15 far-flung athletic venues in a region ribboned with water, a geography not seen in other recent Winter Olympics. The small number of bridges that connect downtown Vancouver with the rest of the city could act as choke points if the area suddenly had to be evacuated.