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Toronto's Pan Am 2015 reaches to Vancouver for security

An American event security giant's Vancouver division -- whose board includes a former VANOC executive -- was awarded an $81-million contract for venue security at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

The Ontario Provincial Police-led Integrated Security Unit announced the choice of Contemporary Security Canada on March 14. OPP Supt. Mike McDonell said CSC was among three companies that were shortlisted. Reilly and Garda were the others. He said CSC will hire an estimated 5,200 people to provide screening at airport-style venue checkpoints and patrol Games venues in Ontario.

"What we were looking for was somebody that could deliver what we asked for, very strict recommendations," McDonell told The Tyee. "We looked at failures in the past with all the major Games and what had gone on, and we had very, very strict program management criteria built up. If you look at what happened in London that was a failure of program management."

G4S, the world's largest private security company, failed to hire enough staff to fulfill its contract with the London 2012 Summer Olympics, so the United Kingdom government sent uniformed soldiers to staff venue checkpoints.

Cathy Priestner Allinger, who was Vancouver 2010's executive vice-president of sport and venues, became a CSC director on Nov. 29, 2010, according to the B.C. corporate registry. Priestner Allinger is the CEO of ViaSport, which distributes taxpayer funds to B.C. amateur sports groups, and was a consultant to the Russian Olympic Committee before Sochi 2014.

CSC is the Canadian division of privately owned, California-based Contemporary International. Founded by CEO Damon Zumwalt in 1967, Contemporary boasts having been involved with 30 Super Bowls, nine Olympics, four Presidential inaugurations and two Papal visits. RCMP records show CSC was hired on a $97.419-million contract on May 4, 2009 to provide venue screening for Vancouver 2010 and it another $66.654-million contract on Jan. 29, 2010. Contemporary also had a $20-million contract with VANOC for security integration, asset protection and spectator services. B.C. Pavilion Corporation recently hired Genesis Security Group to patrol the Vancouver Convention Centre after CSC's contract expired.

For the RCMP security contract in Vancouver, CSC hired 6,000 workers at $16 to $30 an hour, with a $2.50 per hour bonus to stay to the end of the Games because it forecast a 15 per cent attrition rate. CSC hired Boston-based Target Logistics to accommodate 1,700 of the workers in Whistler at a temporary, 150,000-square-foot military-style camp.

After the Vancouver Games, the RCMP hired Contemporary on a no-bid contract to provide venue screening at the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario for $21 million. In April 2011, Zumwalt and several executives and staff members were charged in Ontario for not being fully licensed and uniformed at the summits. Ontario prosecutors dropped most charges, but the company pleaded guilty and was fined $45,000 in October 2011. McDonell said that was not a factor in the CSC contract.

"The terms of the RFP were they had to be licensed and in good standing in the province of Ontario," he said.

The Pan American Games are an Olympic-style multi-sport event happening every four years for North, Central and South American nations, including Olympic powerhouse United States. However, the Pan Ams tend not to draw all the top athletes, sponsors or broadcasters who attend the Summer Olympics. The first Games were in 1951 at Buenos Aires. Winnipeg hosted the 1967 and 1999 Pan Ams.

McDonell said the Toronto 2015 security budget is $239 million, which is substantially less than Vancouver 2010's $900 million. "This is not the Olympics," McDonell said. "Nor does it have the iconic value for attracting threats like the Olympics has."

ISU includes OPP, Toronto Police, Hamilton Police, RCMP, and regional forces in Durham, Peel, York, Niagara, Halton and South Simcoe. McDonell said the Canadian Forces are not involved.

McDonell said the threat level is low, but "everything is subject to change."

"If the national security threat level of Canada changes, everything changes. Given today's current threat environment in Canada, specifically in Ontario, that's where we're at today," he said.

The total bill for the July 10-26, 2015 Games is almost $2.5 billion, which includes $1.44 billion for the organizing committee, $709 million for the athletes' village and $239 million for security. Only $153 million in non-taxpayer revenue is budgeted.

Organizers are expecting more than 7,600 athletes -- more than double Vancouver 2010's 3,072 -- to compete in 51 sports at 34 venues in 14 municipalities around the Golden Horseshoe. The $390,000-a-year CEO Ian Troop was fired in December and given a $534,800 golden parachute. He was replaced by former deputy health minister Saad Rafi.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

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