It appears that Olympic host cities, Whistler and Vancouver are full of creepy crawlies these days, but it has nothing to do with bedbugs or rats.

Over the past few months, law abiding citizens along with dissenters of the 2010 Olympic Games have been visited in some form or another at home, at work, or by phone by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU).

When you have a billion dollars security budget to play with, the sky’s the limit.

In Vancouver, members of the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN) have been pulled over by the VPD and asked to comply with a “random” identity check. Chris Shaw explains being pulled over by the VPD.

In another case, a 73-year old Surrey man wrote an unflattering letter to VANOC and received a visit by the Olympic police to try to discover his true intentions about the Games.

In mid-January members of the RCMP’s 2010 Integrated Security Unit attempted to meet with and gather information from members of the Lil’wat at Mt. Currie.

Not only are Whistler residents being monitored by radar satellites and military aircraft, and on the ground by Google’s Street View, Olympic police are asking pre-selected residents to spy on neighbours and to report back on anyone who speaks out against the Games – like something out of a B-grade sci-fi movie.

In the past weeks, several Whistler residents have been approached by undercover ISU police officers and interrogated about their views on the Olympics. Given the level of discontent with current Whistler mayor and bureaucrats, and VANOC’s lack of transparency, the entire town could be under surveillance.

It’s clear that when it comes to the Olympics and the IOC “you’re either with us or against us.” Shows just how far the IOC will go to protect its brand.

Sounds eerily reminiscent of the special mind control and surveillance techniques used during and after the Cold War by the KGB in Russia or suppression techniques used by communist China to fight public dissent.

Whistler’s local paper, Pique Newsmagazine reported May 7, 2009 that closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) will be used in Whistler during the 2010 Games to “protect” Olympic venues. Although the number of cameras is unknown, VANOC claims that “.. there are no plans to leave assets behind at venues…”

The CCTV cameras have never been taken down after past Olympic Games, so why would the 2010 Games be any different? Me thinks the CCTV cameras are here to stay.

Up until last year security guards wishing to work in B.C. had to undergo rigorous training and apply for a license from the provincial Solicitor-General’s ministry.

In an effort to help companies recruit and train security guards, the government changed the legislation last September to allow companies to obtain temporary 90-day licenses. Up to 5,000 security guards are needed to screen at competition venues, the two athletes villages and several media centres. The new legislation allows workers to work without any formal training.The only screening process they need to undergo is a fingerprint clearance process. The security contract was awarded to Aeroguard, and to Salt Lake City-based Contemporary International and Edmonton’s United Protection Services Inc.

If that’s not scary enough, the National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking. It’s known as Aquaint, which stands for “Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence.”

As more and more data is collected-through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches -it may be possible to know not just where people are and what they’re doing, but what and how they think.

It’s clear that increased security will become part of the lasting legacy from the Games. Jacques Rogge’s dream come true. A police state for sure.


Pina Belperio

Welcome to Word of the Rings, a new Rabble.ca blog that aims to serve as a one-stop examination at what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Pina...