Canadian Consulting Engineer

2010 Olympics Interview with Corporal Gursharn Bernier

Scenes of protesters besieging the Olympic Torch as it was carried through the streets of London and Paris this spring were a taste of the kind of security problems that could face organizers of the O...

May 1, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Scenes of protesters besieging the Olympic Torch as it was carried through the streets of London and Paris this spring were a taste of the kind of security problems that could face organizers of the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. With the eyes of the world focused on them, Olympic Games make an ideal staging ground for political action.

Indeed, by mid-April, Canada’s First Nations leaders were putting our own governments on alert that they were planning action for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B. C. David Dennis, who represents B. C.’s off-reserve aboriginal people, said that unless they see progress from the federal and B. C. governments on land claims and on sharing revenues from resource industries, Aboriginals will organize road and airport blockades and mass demonstrations to coincide with the Games.

Those in charge of security for the 2010 Olympics have a huge area to cover, taking in 150 venues and a 120-kilometre zone that reaches from Richmond south of Vancouver, through Vancouver’s downtown centre, and north to Whistler in the Rocky Mountains.

Canadian Consulting Engineer interviewed Corporal Gursharn K. Bernier of the Royal Canadian Military Police in April. Corporal Bernier is spokesperson for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit.

Q. WHO IS IN CHARGE OF SECURITY FOR THE 2010 WINTER OLYMPIC AND PARALYMIC GAMES?

The Vancouver 2010 Security unit is an integrated security unit led by the RCMP but made up of a number of partners.

The partners include the Vancouver Police Department, the West Vancouver Police Department, the Canadian Armed Forces, and a number of others, such as provincial and federal public safety agencies. The chief operating officer is RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer.

We’re at the two-year countdown now. We’re examining thoroughly all the risks and determining what’s needed to keep everyone safe, including the athletes, the athletes’ families, and Canadian visitors to the 2010 Games.

Q. WHAT STAGE ARE YOU AT?

We started our Phase III planning in January. Our Phase 1 was strategic planning; Phase II was concept planning. And Phase III is detailed functional planning. It includes the detailed examination of venue plans, as well as road and transit planning.

The planning is done in conjunction with VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games). We work together on the detailed design and security requirements for all the venues. That’s a key component.

Q. IS IT A HUGE CHALLENGE?

What’s unique about the 2010 Winter Games is that it is in two separate locations. One is Whistler, and the other is the Vancouver area. That’s not been done before in Canada. With two landscape areas — Vancouver and Whistler — just the space in itself is a challenge to secure.

And we’ve not had an Olympic Games here since 9/11. It is a challenge in the world we live in now in 2008. A lot of the security details must be protected from those who may want to cause harm at the Olympic Games. Because of this it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific details.

In general terms, though, take the Sliding Centre, for example. It is spread over a mountain, so it’s a huge challenge to secure. There is wilder-security ness all around, and it is inaccessible and very difficult terrain.

But we want to ensure that the 2010 Games are not all about security. It is a sporting event and an opportunity for Canada, Vancouver and Whistler to shine.

Q. ARE YOU LOOKING AT TECHNOLOGIES YET?

Yes, we’re looking at various options and have issued some requests for proposals (RFPs) from suppliers. The number of such requests will only increase as we get down to the nitty-gritty of detailed functional planning.

Technology is a key component in ensuring a safe and secure games. One example of a technology we’re looking at is a perimeter intrusion detection system. It’s a state of the art system for securing large areas. We’re trying to use technology in assisting us with security so that you don’t see people wearing a firearm on their hip at every corner as you do in other places. Visitors are going to see sporting events, and not necessarily see the security aspect.

The integrated security unit is committed to ensuring a safe and secure Winter Games. Having said that, it’s to be expected that we’re going to face a lot of challenges. At the same time, we want to make the 2010 Games about the sporting event, not about security.

Q. PRESUMABLY THERE WILL BE AT LEAST PHYSICAL BARRIERS TO CONTROL WHO IS COMING IN OR OUT OF A VENUE?

Yes, that’s a given. But in other Olympics there have been different levels of that type of security, everything from a heavy military presence to a very limited control set-up.

As I said, one of the challenges is the fact that we’re liv-ing in a post-2001 world and there are some security aspects that are a given.

Q. WILL YOU BE GOING TO BEIJING TO COMPARE NOTES?

We will have a few planners going to Beijing to look at what they have set up for their Olympics, keeping in mind that Beijing is in China, a communist country.

We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it speaks to the rights of Canadians to peacefully express opinions and views, but in a lawful manner.

I know the security unit is very cognisant of those rights and very supportive. But there’s an issue of balancing those rights with those of assuring the safety and security of Canadians and visitors.

Q. ARE YOU AT THE STAGE OF LOOKING AT EACH VENUE’S PARTICULAR NEEDS?

Yes. There are 666 days to go (April 17). Everything will be done in due time. VANOC has identified approximately 150 venues. We are at the detailed planning stages and are working closely with all our various partners.


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