BY DAVID PUGLIESE
Federal government officials say the security is in place for the Olympic Games with more than 16,000 police and military personnel involved in the operation.
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games open in Vancouver on Friday but Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile, commander of Joint Task Force Games has told Defence Watch that the Canadian Forces presence is expected to be low-key.
“Our role has always been to be behind the scenes and low profile to support the RCMP as the lead security agency,” he said. “But obviously as we deploy into theater with a total of 4,500 Canadian Forces personnel we will be visible. There will be ships and aircraft and people moving about. It’s still our intent to be there to take on those unique roles that really nobody has the capacity to do.”
Defence Minister Peter MacKay is expected to visit military personnel at the Games either Thursday or Friday.
On Wednesday federal representatives held a press conference in Ottawa as well as a technical briefing to outline security details.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the Olympics was a good example “as to how organizations can come together effectively.”
Naval, air force and army units, as well as those from CANSOFCOM are all contributing the Games security. Other federal departments and various police forces are also involved.
“We have Auroras, we have maritime helicopters, and Griffon helicopters for land surveillance,” Pile said in a recent interview. “We’ll have NORAD dealing with aerospace surveillance, writ large and that will be a bilateral effort between Canada and the United States. We’ll have an AWACS aircraft deployed assisting with that and Canadian F-18 aircraft.”
The military contribution is varied. A component of JTF2 is expected to be on standby in the Vancouver area. A Port Security Unit, made up of naval reservists from across the country, is now actively enforcing security zones 24 / 7 in Vancouver Harbour. It is supporting the RCMP for waterborne security operations within Vancouver Harbour, including Force Protection of the three temporary accommodation vessels sheltering Olympic security forces.
The Combined Operational Dive Team, comprised of clearance divers and port inspection divers from across the country, has completed more than 115 dives since Jan. 7. CODT has also conducted searches of waterside Olympics venues such as Canada Place and the Athletes’ Village.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard units will also be involved on the American side of the border. “They will have Coast Guard cutters deployed,” Pile said. “They will have United States Navy assets deployed. It’s in their security interests and it is a border area. That’s why we want to share information rapidly and correctly with them.”
At the Wednesday press conference Toews also mentioned the security co-operation with the U.S. “We’ve been working every closely with the Americans, part of the security area does include parts of the United States,” he said.
Protests are expected against the Games but according to the RCMP it does not plan to be heavy-handed in how it deals with such issues. “In terms of the Olympic Games, it will be a measured response,” Bill Sweeney, deputy commissioner of the RCMP, said at Wednesday’s press conference.