Retired RCMP officer shares experiences from Vancouver Olympics

Former superintendent gives presentation to Weyburn Rotary Club via Zoom

[Royal Canadian Mounted Police salute the Canadian flag after raising it during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at BC Place on February 12, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)]

A retired superintendent of the RCMP, Alain Bouchard, shared his observations and experiences from his 33-year career, including looking after security for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, with members of the Weyburn Rotary Club via Zoom.

article continues below

Bouchard and his wife Denice were friends with Weyburn Rotarians Bob and Brenda King, and he shared how he rose through the ranks of the RCMP to take on important roles, including spending about 12 years in Ottawa.

Born and raised in Quebec, his first foray outside of that province was to attend basic training at the RCMP Depot in Regina, after which he had a number of postings in this province, including Pelican Narrows, Leader and Onion Lake.

He moved into the forensic identification in Surrey, B.C. before he was sent to Bathurst, N.B., as a forensic identification officer.

He was offered a position to teach in Ottawa at the Canadian Police College, and was then put in charge of a new technology, the electronic transmission of fingerprints.

“Once you’re in the vortex of Ottawa, you can’t leave,” he quipped, noting the 12 years he spent there was the longest of any of his postings. When he had a self-described “midlife crisis” he spent a year serving in Afghanistan, in Kabul, as he was seconded by the European Union, and he returned to Canada as director of identification services.

As an inspector, he was asked to coordinate the security for a Francophone Summit in Canada, and based on his experiences there, he was then asked to do the same for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

This wasn’t his first experience with the Olympic Games, as when he was a junior constable, he served at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, helping to take care of the Athletes Village in Canmore.

For the 2010 Olympics, the RCMP and associated police agencies were headquartered in Richmond, and together with the Canadian Armed Forces, they prepared for the Games by practicing how to respond to a variety of scenarios of threats and situations that could arise.

“We had about 6,000 police members, from Quebec, Newfoundland, the OPP, the RCMP of course, Delta, Edmonton, Regina. We had police personnel from everyone,” said Bouchard.

“My job was to make sure we communicated with everyone else. As police, we all train for the same things, but we had to adjust to military training. Those guys train a different manner, and we had to adjust, even to the way they do meetings,” he said, noting they trained for about six weeks prior to the Games.

An example of a training scenario was how to respond to a group of bombers who threatened to hit the Games. “What do we do about it?” he said. “We had to practice and think of all kinds of scenarios.”

The specialized knowledge brought by the police members could get very specific, said Bouchard, such as knowing exactly how many entrances a downtown building might have, even the type of hinges the doors use and which way they turn.

“We were very well prepared, but even with that, you just never know. It’s hard to always guess what a terrorist is going to do. As you know, we welcomed the world,” he said, noting this wasn’t just the athletes, but leaders from around the world, like the King of Norway, and presidents and prime ministers, and their security details.

All of the police members were housed in three large cruise ships docked about an hour’s drive away, and he was stationed in the Carnival Elation, a ship that he and his wife and daughters had had a cruise in back in 2001.

“They gave me the smallest room at the bottom of the boat, so it worked out pretty well for me. Most of the guys had four people in a room,” he said, adding they worked in 12-hour shifts, which was tricky at times for sleeping in the shared rooms.

With foreign dignitaries in town for the Games, they had to know where the dignitaries were at all times, as well as where the police and military members were deployed. The logistics were tricky at times, said Bouchard, as someone like the sports minister from China would decide suddenly they wanted to attend a hockey game rather than curling, and sometimes these changes came with little notice.

After the Games were done, Bouchard read that the security forces cost Canadians about $1 billion, with some people questioning the need as nothing really major happened.

Bouchard pointed out that nothing happened because they were so well prepared, and had training for every possible scenario.

Rotarian Doug Loden asked about one incident where an attack of some kind occurred at the start of the Games. Bouchard said he gave full credit to the Vancouver city police, who had full intelligence on who was involved and took care of the situation in a quick and efficient manner.

As the Canadian police members prepared, they contact the authorities in Nagano, Japan about how they got ready for the Games in 1998.

“At the best of times, they had maybe a dozen police available at night. At the best of times, we had 1,000 guys on duty at night,” Bouchard chuckled. “The threats weren’t the same as it was in 2010. After the attacks in 2001 when 9/11 happened, it changed the world forever. The amount of resources we have to put in place to make sure everybody was safe is unbelievable. In 1988, we had five guys to look after all the athletes village in Canmore, that was it.”

As Canada’s national police force, the RCMP are always the first ones called for any major international event like the Olympics, said Bouchard, “but we know we can’t do it on our own.”

He added he’s happy to see the integrated units now in place in conjunction with other police agencies, and commented, “We can’t just say it’s an RCMP issue. It’s an everybody issue, and we benefit as agencies, I think.”