Spectators can expect airport-level security at Vancouver-Whistler Games

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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VANCOUVER - When Victor Lysenko travels to Whistler to take in Olympic alpine skiing in just a few short weeks, the B.C. man fears it won't be the international competitors who prevent him from seeing a Canadian athlete strike gold, but that airport-style security checks, long lines and poor planning will keep him away from the competition until there's no one left on the hill.
Security officials are doing their best to assure ticket holders like Lysenko that they won't miss a minute of the action, provided the spectators follow a long list of Olympic do's and don'ts.
For instance, don't bring a water bottle, unless you're at a mountain venue because only then is it permitted. Don't carry bags larger than a loaf of bread or you'll be subject to an extra search. And don't try to duck outside the venue for a smoke break - there's no re-entry.
But for Lysenko, the biggest concern among the spectator guidelines is the fact that ticket holders are being urged by security officials to show up two hours before events get underway at city venues, and three hours before they kick off on the mountains.
How then, the 59-year-old asked, can he possibly see all of the ladies' giant slalom in Whistler at 10 a.m. if the bus he's scheduled to take doesn't begin its estimated three-hour trek from Vancouver until 6:30 a.m.?
"This is going to be very tight, in fact, virtually impossible," Lysenko, of Coquitlam, B.C., said in an interview, adding that he's given some consideration to donating the tickets.
"But then I thought to myself, how's anyone else going to make it?"
Olympic security officials are estimating the spectator screening process will take no more than one minute once a ticket holder reaches the front of the line.
Just how long that will take is difficult to gauge, but the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit says spectators must realize that the level of security will be much higher at the Games than at traditional sporting events.
"Our advice to those attending the Olympic and Paralympic events is quite simple - if there's something you wouldn't take on a commercial airliner, don't take (it to) a venue," said Staff Sgt. Mike Cote, an ISU spokesman.
Jan Damnavits, director of city venue management for the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, said the spectator guidelines that have been put in place for the 2010 Games match those of recent Olympics.
"In Torino, in Salt Lake, in Beijing, you always have to go through a security screening" he said.
The advice is: Know before you go.
"We're (informing) the public that they will have to do this so it's not a surprise when they arrive," Damnavits said.
Spectators hoping to enter a venue will first go through a public scrutiny area, a lobby that features live performances by entertainers.
From there, they'll be directed to the security screening area. A standard lane will be in place for those carrying large bags, while those with smaller bags or nothing at all will be allowed to proceed to the express lane.
Those in wheelchairs will have a lane of their own.
All spectators will have to walk through a metal detector and their belongings will be subject to X-ray screening.
Damnavits stressed the best way for spectators to avoid missing the action is to do whatever they can to get to the venues as early as possible.
A veteran spectator of several Olympics, Damnavits said spectators often forget they have banned items in their possession when they try to enter a venue.
"I think people just either didn't read the information or didn't understand it," he said. "Maybe someone brought something, 'Oh, I have a glass bottle' but you didn't realize you had it."
Compact, folding umbrellas are okay but long-armed umbrellas are not allowed, and once inside even the small ones must stay closed.
"A golf umbrella is a restricted item but a folding umbrella is a restricted action, which means when you're in the venue you obviously can't put your umbrella up," Damnavits said.
Damnavits said there's also been some clarifications made to the spectator guide. While beverages are generally banned, breast milk will be allowed.
Knives are also on the no-no list, but Sikhs will be permitted to carry traditional kirpans into venues. Those from India will have to leave their flags at home, though; banners of non-participating countries are not allowed.
Visa and cash are the only accepted forms of payment at venues, and only cards from official Olympic sponsor Visa will work in ATM's.
Lysenko said it's hard to complain about having a chance to see the Olympics, especially since he also has seats to the gold medal men's hockey game.
But with lines to get on transit, nowhere to park your car, and potentially longer lines to get into venues, he said the picture he and other spectators are now facing is radically different from what it appeared when Vancouver and Whistler first got the Games.
"I don't think (Olympic organizers) were being realistic about what they were setting up and how they planned this whole thing out," he said.

Organizations: Vancouver-Whistler Games, Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, ISU Visa

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Whistler, Coquitlam Torino Salt Lake Beijing India

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