Security Planning for the America’s Cup

Published on December 19th, 2016

Political fallout and antigovernment demonstrations are among the range of security scenarios envisaged by organisers preparing for the 35th America’s Cup.

“You have to facilitate peaceful protest, but you also have to facilitate the rights of others to go about their regular duties and movements,” Steve Cosham, planning co-ordinator for the event, told The Royal Gazette.

In the wake of a bitter protest over the Government’s proposed airport redevelopment, with demonstrators blocking Parliament and a subsequent police crackdown that was unprecedented in recent history, many wondered if the 35th America’s Cup risked ending up a political target.

The event has been hailed as a game-changer for the island, and “no surprises” is Mr Cosham’s motto as the security committee oversees preparations.

In a task that has not stopped since the Louis Vuitton World Series in October 2015, the team has drawn up “a comprehensive contingency plan for anything that may go wrong”, from hurricanes to hitches in transport.

“Protest action is just one of the contingencies,” said Lieutenant-Colonel William White, the former Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment who chairs the ACBDA security committee.

Bermuda’s successful bid to host the biggest sailing event in the world, officially announced in December 2014, was cause for a national celebration that included fireworks and a three-cannon salute.

Many selling points factored into securing the America’s Cup over rival contender San Diego — prime sailing waters, along with a location ideal for live global broadcasting.

But financial incentives also loomed large — and, with an election impending, the price tag has fuelled scepticism over an event unfamiliar to many Bermudians.

While the figure of $77 million is often cited, the Bermuda Government’s actual spending is $52 million between 2014 and 2017 — and the island has committed to a further $25 million as a guarantee against commercial sponsorship.

An economic impact assessment projected that the Cup would bring $242 million into the island.

Asked how protest action might be handled, Mr Cosham said there had been “serious discussions” that would include live exercises before the event, but encompassing a host of other possible mishaps: severe storms, oil spills on a main road, major transportation accidents or a viral outbreak on a visiting cruise ship.

“This is not as big as the Olympics, but the Olympic Games goes on for two weeks, and this is five weeks.”

Under the host agreement, Bermuda takes responsibility for delivering security for the America’s Cup. – The Royal Gazette, full story

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