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RCMP under budget for Olympic security

OTTAWA - They were ready for bombs but fights were the only thing the RCMP appeared to have to defuse during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

OTTAWA - They were ready for bombs but fights were the only thing the RCMP appeared to have to defuse during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

There were 876 incidents in the Mounties' emergency management software database during the Games, according to a summary obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

They included all the various protests, suspicious packages, assaults, thefts, car accidents and even reports of police officers losing their ammunition and ID.

Many of the incidents turned out to be nothing, and in the end, the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit was able to scale back its security efforts from a medium-threat level plan to a low one.

"None of the events were significant," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer, who led the Olympic security effort.

"None of them posed a significant threat."

As a result of being able to scale down the plan, the Mounties will announce this week that they only spent about $523 million of their $558 million budget.

Details are expected to be released Wednesday in a report on Games security, but a final figure won't actually be tallied until the RCMP finishes selling off assets acquired during the Games.

The original security budget for the Olympics was $175 million, a figure later revealed to have been merely a budgetary place holder while the actual tally was sorted out.

Nitpicking between the federal and B.C. governments over who should pay for what held up the final announcement on costs until 2009, when the price tag was set at $900 million.

The RCMP was originally allocated $491 million of that, but used some of their own funds as costs for things like accommodation, transportation and overtime began to rise.

The RCMP's bill represents the lion's share, but the federal government also allocated $212 million for the Department of National Defence, $11 million for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, $137 million for contingency fund as well as funds for several other government departments.

Those funds were part of the overall $1.25 billion spent by the federal government on the Games. A review of those funds is ongoing.

The ISU was made up of over 16,000 police officers, soldiers and private security.

Their arsenal included fighter jets on standby, dive teams, equipment for detecting chemical, radiological or nuclear weapons and around 1,000 closed circuit television cameras. Both air and marine space around the venues was restricted during the Games, which was called the largest domestic security exercise in Canadian history.

Critics have long said the Olympic security effort was excessive, given that tangible threats against the Games appeared non-existent.

The only recurring theme in threat assessments in the year leading up to the Games was the possibility that protests could get out of control.

Once authorities realized that domestic protest was their biggest challenge, the entire security plan should have been scaled back, suggested Vancouver's Chris Shaw, one of the most vocal critics of the amount of money spent on the Games.

"Any serious analysis would have looked at it, the key players in the resistance, and concluded that none were likely to engage in acts of violence and that protests would simply be a conventional policing matter not requiring a $1 billion budget," Shaw said.

"Indeed, had they understood the divisions within the (Olympic Resistance Network) and related groups, simply in most cases by understanding the history of the left in Vancouver, they would have realized this more rapidly."

The RCMP described the incident management database as being similar to ones used to record 911 calls. Often, the incidents logged turned out to be nothing _ like one of a potential steroid find at the athletes village.

The most serious athlete-related incident at the Games is recorded in chilling simplicity.

The accident at the Whistler Sliding Centre that left a Georgian luger dead is recorded as an accident at a venue categorized as a sudden death.

The day Nodar Kumaritashvili's body was returned to Georgia is also noted.

The database also logs some of the VIP visits to the Games _ including former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Among the stranger incidents is the fact the RCMP had to be called to referee an argument between a Vancouver Olympic committee volunteer and an International Olympic Committee member over access to a restricted area in the figure skating venue.

The records don't say who won.

 
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