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Shaw spends much of his time in a small, cluttered office in a research building near Vancouver General Hospital. A professor of ophthalmology at UBC, he’s spent the last four decades-at the University of California (Irvine), Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dalhousie in Halifax, and, since 1988, here in Vancouver-studying neuroscience. He’s particularly interested in the progression in mice of a neurological disease related to one discovered on the island of Guam, called ALS-parkinsonism-dementia complex. “With any neurological disease, like Alzheimer’s or ALS, to figure out the causes in humans you’re usually starting with a diagnosis, then trying to work backwards toward potential causal factors,” he says. “It’s rare that you get to start with a healthy animal and study a disease unfolding in real time.”
In his free moments, Shaw, 58, turns his attention to what he considers a disastrous local disease that’s been unfolding since 2002: the 2010 Winter Games. His book Five-Ring Circus, published earlier this year, makes the case that the International Olympic Committee is a well-oiled corporate machine peddling exalted notions of global sportsmanship to rake in handsome profits. In the host cities, he argues, suppliers and developers make out like bandits, generally at the expense of taxpayers. The book is flawed by hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and rabid anti-Olympic rhetoric-Shaw’s active in the antiglobalization movement as well as the NO GAMES 2010 coalition-which makes it easy to dismiss. But the book is also full of research and revelations. He brings a hound’s nose and a scientist’s rigour to his analysis; you put the book down enlightened and disturbed.
Many of the projections the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corp. put together to land the Games, says Shaw, and that VANOC now uses to reassure us they’ll come in on budget, were-to put it politely-optimistic guesses. “Did you catch that line to the effect that ‘these projections are based on the assumption of no economic downturn before 2010′? How could they make that assumption? Why wouldn’t they suggest different outcomes based on differing economic scenarios? Where’s the due diligence?” The worst misrepresentations, he believes, relate to the cost of security, which VANOC originally budgeted at $175 million. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has since allowed that it could go much higher.
“Let’s start with the 2004 Winter Olympics,” says Shaw, a Deep Cove resident with a son at the University of Western Ontario and a daughter in kindergarten. “In Torino, security was provided by about 15,000 police and soldiers, at a cost of about $1.4 billion-roughly eight times what VANOC originally budgeted. Security at the Athens Olympics in 2002 came in at about $1.5 billion, and the last estimate I saw for the London Games in 2012 was almost $3 billion.”
Shaw has used dozens of freedom-of-information requests to unearth financial and contractual data. “Every agency and every level of government can’t-or won’t-release details about actual security costs. Or I should say, every agency but one: the Mounties do eventually release material they’re legally obliged to, which is how we learned that the RCMP-the lead security agency-wasn’t even consulted when that $175-million figure was announced. The RCMP has since concluded that that’s unlikely to cover its own costs. Then, of course, there are all the other agencies involved.”
Shaw argues we’ll need a minimum 15,000-strong security force. “For reserves, even using the lowest low-end pay scales, and without accounting for other allowances or the expenses associated with equipment, we’re over $130 million. Add regulars and we double that number. And since there is no regular-force army contingent in B.C., all the assumed 5,000 regular personnel have to come from elsewhere. But let’s keep it simple and assume that the cost merely doubles.
“As for the police, an RCMP constable starts at $44,500 per annum; a VPD officer, $45,500. Taking the lowest salary gives us a cost per cop of approximately $11,000 for the three months of Olympic duty. Let’s say all the police, unlike most Canadian Forces personnel, can simply go home after the Games are over, so the period drops to two months. With 5,000 so employed, our total salary comes in near
$37 million. Overall police costs for salary, food, lodging, and transportation will come in at no less than $74 million. There are likely to be considerable overtime costs. Combined with the military costs, we’re now at $334 million.
“We still haven’t talked about the navy,” he adds. “Regular navy and/or naval reserve will patrol the coast-in addition to screening ports and shipping-in particular around Vancouver and up Howe Sound. And the air force will provide air coverage. Per person costs may be the same as for the army, but ships and planes are expensive to maintain and operate. Say, for each separate part of the Canadian Forces, another $100 million as a conservative assumption. This puts us over half a billion.”
The army will require trucks, jeeps, and light armoured vehicles. “There’s also talk that the air force may use unmanned aerial vehicles as well,” says Shaw. “The military may have to rent vans and SUVs for officers and senior staff, and for use as troop carriers. Army engineers need specialized vehicles and bridging resources. Signals units need specialized radio equipment. Air-defence units will have anti-aircraft-missile-launching low-level systems mounted on armoured personnel carriers. Specialized units will monitor for chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.
“The air force will have F-18s in the air, along with helicopters for transport, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as the unmanned craft. The navy will have frigates and other craft in Howe Sound. Both police and military will require computers and other sophisticated electronic equipment. Cruise ships will be rented to house RCMP personnel, and barracks will be built along the Sea to Sky Highway.”
Equipment and other re-sources will have to be transported to the Lower Mainland from all over Canada, Shaw points out, and shortfalls will be filled with new purchases.
So the $175-million figure was simply plucked out of thin air? And the $400 million is also break-it-to-me-gently bunkum? Does Shaw have an idea what the true number is likely to be? “Torino’s final bill, that $1.4 billion, is probably a better indicator of what security will cost us-though two billion wouldn’t be a surprise. That’s at least a billion more than VANOC and the various governments have been telling us. They’re either lying or they’re in denial-I’m not sure which is worse.”