VANCOUVER: The athletes are not the only groups intensely counting down to the 2010 Winter Olympics to open February 12 in Vancouver, Canada.
The security personnel led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is also finalizing and fine-tuning on security logic, making sure it is comprehensive enough to cover the mega event.
"This is the most important security event in the country's history. It's the one that trumps every other one," RCMP Staff Sergeant Mike Cote told Xinhua. "I have been a police officer for many years. I worked on many G8's and papal visits and such security events, but this one is history-making in that it's the largest security operation ever held in Canada."
Cote admitted that this has been a challenging experience for him. "We have been making preparations for, for me the past eight months. I am really looking forward for the Games to begin." Cote said inside the newly built Vancouver Olympic Centre.
The Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit was established in 2003 soon after Vancouver was selected to host the 2010 games. The federal government of Canada mandated RCMP to oversee planning of the security of the Winter Olympics.
RCMP is a policing body that handles security in all three levels, national, provincial and municipal. It's operational structure is unique in the world.
Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games (Vanoc) records show that two Canadian and one American private companies have been contracted to work alongside with RCMP to provide security services during the Games. The American company had worked at the Beijing and other previous Olympics.
About 31,000 volunteers have also been recruited in the security operations covering both the Olympics and the paralympics.
More than 80 countries and regions will join the 2010 Olympic Games, and more than 40 countries and regions will join the Paralympic Games. Tourism Vancouver estimated that there will be 10,000 media representatives in town, and number of visitors has been projected at 300,000 during the period of the Games.
The Winter Olympics events will be held in Vancouver as well as its neighbouring cities Richmond and Whistler.
Cote said the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit is able to dispatch sea, land and air personnel when called for.
"The fact that the Olympic footprint we are dealing with certainly has something to do with that," explained Cote. "We have a metropolitan area like Vancouver that we are responsible for. We have the Whistler area which is mountainous and presents its own challenges. We also have Richmond which is close to water."
"Simply the time that we live in dictates the fact that we have to leave no stone unturned when it comes to security," Cote stressed. "We have to do what we have to do to make sure we all enjoy a safe and secure Olympics. All that coupled together makes it the largest security venture in Canada's history."
The cost of the Games' security operation has been criticized by some as too high. The president of BC Civil Liberties Association, Micheal Vonn, is one such outspoken person.
"Mega events like the Olympics have turned into international trade shows for the multibillion dollars security and military industries," Vonn said. She listed some of the technologies to be used over the Winter Olympics. "Closed circuit video cameras, iris scanning, facial scanning, radio frequency identification chips, and satellite imaging."
However Cote disagreed. "The cost of security will remain within the allot budget of 900 million," Cote responded. "I don't think we are over doing security as far as integrated security unit is concerned. I mean it certainly is an area we cannot cut corner. We all know the time we live in is a necessity. I think we took the appropriate measures for what we have to deal with."