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Military planes over Vancouver part of 2010 Games prep

Vancouverites can expect to see military aircraft in the skies and navy vessels on the water when the second major security exercise for the 2010 Games gets underway next Monday.

Over 1,000 safety and security personnel will test Canada’s readiness for potential scenarios involving terrorism, earthquakes and extreme weather, assistant RCMP commissioner Bud Mercer of the 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU) announced today.

Mercer said the public should expect to see marine manoeuvres on Burrard Inlet and the coastline of Howe Sound and aircraft flying over the greater Vancouver area.

He added that local residents will not face any traffic or airport delays because of the security exercise, which runs from February 9 to 13.

“I don’t believe their lives will be impacted at all,” Mercer said.

The commissioner couldn’t give a precise dollar figure for the exercise because there will be over 100 departments, agencies and organizations from all levels of government involved. He pegged the cost of the operation for the ISU at $150,000.

Asked what the total security budget for the 2010 Games will be, Mercer declined to give a concrete answer. He said he hoped a precise figure would be announced this week.

Recent reports have put the total security cost at nearly $1 billion, which is more than five times Vancouver’s 2003 bid book projection of $175 million.

Next week’s security operation is termed “exercise silver” and follows on the heels of “exercise bronze,” which involved over 500 security personnel last November, Mercer said.

Rear-Admiral Tyrone Pile, head of the armed forces section of the ISU, said mountainous geography, open ocean and busy airways around Vancouver make providing a secure Games a challenge.

“It is not a surprise therefore that securing the Olympic Games is often described as the largest and most complex peacetime security operation in the world,” he said.

The ISU will be responsible for about 12,000 security personnel during the 2010 Games. That number includes 4,000 Canadian soldiers and 8,000 personnel from the RCMP, local police and private security companies.

Mercer said the United States will be involved in security planning but was adamant that there will be no American troops on the ground during next week’s exercise or the 2010 Games.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for the Hook.

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