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Low-balling Security

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Issue: 66 Section: Business Geography: Ontario Toronto Topics: 2010 Olympics, security

January 4, 2010

Low-balling Security

Toronto's Pan Am budget likely to inflate, Olympics-wise

by Tim Groves

TORONTO—While most pundits have championed Toronto’s successful bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games, critics are asking what the true cost of the Games will be. Escalating costs of security are among their main concerns.

The Pan American Games is a multi-sport event in which only countries from the Americas compete. In November 2009, the 2015 Games were awarded to Toronto and 16 surrounding municipalities, including Hamilton, St. Catharines, Oshawa and Mississauga.

“It is going to be an incredibly good event for the city and the region,” says Jagoda Pike, President of the Toronto Bid Committee. “This is second in size only to the Summer Olympics. The Winter Olympics are actually a smaller event.”

This is not good news to everyone. “You can expect to see more homelessness; you can expect to see people displaced,” says Christopher Shaw, author of the book Five Ring Circus, which documents the social and economic impacts of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

photo by No Games-Toronto

“They’re going to start ramping up their security apparatus.”

The current budget for the Pan Am Games calls for $1.4 billion, plus an additional billion to pay for the Athletes’ Village. “For sure the number is vastly higher; they just don't want to tell people that,” says Shaw.

He points to the Vancouver Olympics as an example of a similar sporting event whose budget has vastly expanded. The original budget for the Vancouver Games was $660 million, but that number has since escalated to $6 billion. If the budget for the Pan Am Games were to similarly escalate, the Ontario Government has agreed to cover additional costs.

Toronto's Bid Book reveals some details of the security plan for 2015:

• Security will be directed by an Integrated Security Unit (ISU), led by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), incorporating at least nine other police forces, including the RCMP and Toronto Police;

• A Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) will be established to “proactively detect and prevent criminal activity, including acts of terrorism and violent or destructive activist behaviour;”

• 2,000 security volunteers will be recruited;

• “State-of-the-art security and monitoring technology” will be acquired to “protect Games venues, participants and spectators;”

• “Approximately 1,000 highly-trained professional police and law enforcement [officers]” will be deployed at “peak days during the 2015 Games,” as well as “1,500 private security personnel.” The Bid Book also states, “While not anticipated, resources from the Canadian Forces could be utilized if necessary.”

“They are hallucinating; they are lying to you through their teeth,” said Shaw upon hearing the number of officers to be deployed. He compares these figures to the 15,000 police officers, military and private security being deployed to the Vancouver Olympics, questioning why a similar event would require much less security.

“It is a different kind of an event,” says Pike. “You don't get the same level of participation from heads of state, so you don't end up with the complexity and the cost of securing for that kind of attendance.”

Pike said she could not comment on the details of the security measures, and referred all questions to the OPP. The OPP did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story.

The initial price tag on security in Vancouver was $175 million, but by current estimates that will increase to over $900 million. Shaw believes the cost of security for the Pan Am Games will similarly escalate.

Pike also refused to disclose the cost of securing the Games, saying, “It is a confidential number.”

However, she did confirm the cost of security was within the $1.4 billion budget. While The Dominion was unable to determine the exact cost of security in the Pan Am budget, most security expenses will be paid for from the $167 million allocated to Essential Services. Private security will be paid for from the $55.7 million allocated for Games services. These figures do not include the money being spent on “monitoring technology,” which will likely be part of the $707 million being spent on capital expenditures.

“This is great news,” said a post on the blog Private Security Guy. “The guarding industry is not the only sector that will benefit from the [Toronto] hosting win. Security integrators and monitoring companies in the region should find a healthy increase in RFP's [contracts to bid on] as the Games approach.”

“I think engaging in any event that has benefits will at the same time have some cost. That is always the case; nothing comes without a price,” says Pike. “However, within my view, an event of this kind ... is going to be an incredibly good event for the city.”

“The city will very rapidly get itself in a deficit position as things get more costly and/or fail,” says Shaw. “These things tend to widely escalate—not because suddenly it becomes more expensive but because they low-ball the numbers in the first place.”

Tim Groves is an investigative researcher based in Toronto.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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