Original Vancouver Olympics bid disguised security costs

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Organizers of Vancouver's Olympic bid submitted a budget with a minimal amount earmarked for security even though it was one year after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, documents obtained by The Canadian Press showed on Friday.

The total of 15,000 police officers, private security and military personnel is expected to cost at least $715 million, the government announced on Thursday.

That's more than five times the original estimate, which didn't take into account the need to secure areas that would be frequented by visitors outside of the official venues.

"The estimated security budget that was developed is based on a low threat assessment which means that should the threat level escalate to medium or high, there would be a significant impact on the current $175M budget and would also have significant funding implications for other security partners," state the documents obtained under Canadian information law.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner Bud Mercer said a threat assessment of medium for the Vancouver Games meant an "individual or a group has the capacity and intention to commit a serious act of violence."

He cited the terrorist attacks and kidnappings at the 1972 Munich Games and the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"I think both of those countries would have predicted they were going to have a secure games as well," Mercer said. "You have to plan."

The Mounties established their Integrated Security Unit to coordinate security among various agencies and companies for the games.

"Determining the budget needs has been a very complicated procedure," Mercer said on Friday. "This country has a responsibility to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment for the 2010 games."

The $392 million allocated to the RCMP will pay for 7,000 police and 4,000 private security officers, as well as accommodations, meals travel, communications equipment and vehicles. Private security will be used to control venues under police supervision, Mercer said.

Meeting the original 2002 budget "would be an impossible task" Mercer said.

The Canadian government had previously acknowledged that costs were likely to increase from the original number, but no budget was released while federal and provincial officials negotiated how to split the costs.

Of security costs, British Columbia will pay $200 million while the federal government pays for the rest - including any unforeseen expenses.

An estimated 4,000 Canadian Forces troops will be in Vancouver and Whistler at games time, and U.S. forces will be involved through joint Canadian and American defense agency NORAD, and further assistance will be provided through Canadian and U.S. border patrol agencies.