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Toronto G20 large security task but economic boon

Dec. 8, 2009, Toronto – Many Toronto hotel and business owners were smiling Monday over word the G20 summit is being moved to the city, but at least one expert said it will be a monumental task to put together security details in such short order.


December 8, 2009
By Susanna Kelley | The Canadian Press

Topics

Dec. 8, 2009, Toronto – Many Toronto hotel and business owners were
smiling Monday over word the G20 summit is being moved to the city, but
at least one expert said it will be a monumental task to put together
security details in such short order.

The G20 was originally planned for the Huntsville, Ont., area, to be
held just after the Group of Eight meeting there in late June.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced it would be moved to Toronto
following concerns that the smaller cottage country venue could not
provide all the resources necessary to stage such a huge event.

The summit, to be held June 26 and 27, will be a boon to the city's
hospitality industry, which has been hurting due to the global
recession, said Terry Mundell, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel
Association. "2010 was looking to continue to be a challenging year,"
Mundell said. "An event of this stature, with… what we believe to be
a significant amount of economic activity for both our hotel community
and our partners, is just a great, great shot in the arm
for us."

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The event will mean up to $17 million in hotel room revenue alone, and
that doesn't count food, beverages and entertainment, said Mundell. The
association estimates there will be 40,000 to 50,000 "hotel nights" to
provide accommodations for all the people in town for the meeting of
the world leaders.

Huntsville, which has 1,000 rooms at most, will still host the smaller G8, which will be held June 25 and 26.

Hosting a G20 summit also involves providing air-tight security for
more than 30 international delegations and security expert Chris
Mathers, a former RCMP officer, called it a huge undertaking. "There'll
be the anti-globalization types, there'll be the climate types,
there'll be the professional demonstrators, which generally for the
police are just a bother, (although) the anti-globalization types can
sometimes get nasty," Mathers said.

Such events are usually scrupulously planned out two years ahead of
time, and security concerns go far beyond protesters, he added. "You
have the issue of… terrorist attacks," Mathers said. "Can you imagine
if you're a Jihadist and you want to kill all the top G20 people? That
would stop the world at least temporarily."

The amount of support required, both technical and human, to keep the
leaders safe, is massive, he added. "You're bringing guys in from the
airport in a helicopter. You want to make sure nobody shoots them down
with a (rocket propelled grenade)," Mathers said. "You have to have
military helicopters that have got the proper anti-aircraft systems and
all of that to bring these people in."

Still, Mathers predicted the many security services involved the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto
Police Service, the U.S. Secret Security Service and others will pull
the operation together successfully in time.

Mundell says he's not overly concerned about security risks in
Toronto's hotels, saying they deal with movie stars, senior politicians
and high-profile celebrities every day.

In September, global leaders decided at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh
that the G20 would replace the G8 as the leading international body for
economic matters.

The move formalized a major shift in global politics that has seen
emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil challenge
established economies such as the United States and Europe for
supremacy.

In the heart of the city's financial district Bay and King streets _
people were generally upbeat about the G20 meeting being moved there.
"I think it's good for the city that the G20 is coming to Toronto,"
said John Leask, who works in the mining exploration sector. "For
Canada it gives us a chance to profile what the country's about and get
more people looking at Canada as a business centre."

Carmella Bandini, a telecommunications industry employee, said security
will be an issue no matter where it's held. "So why not, let's test our
own capabilities of doing the security and we should be OK."

The G20 will help Toronto stand out as a "market to be in," said
27-year old Tarah Clark, an equity broker with Deutsche Bank Securities
who usually works out of New York. "To not do it would be an admission
that we can't handle an event like that," said Clark. "We're a lot
bigger than people understand so it would be a great way of showing the
world that we can handle something like that."

Jake Kerr, who works with Scotiabank, lives in Vancouver but is in
Toronto every month. "I think it's generally a good idea for Toronto
and for Canada," he said.

"I'm looking at the security that is going on for the Olympics in
Vancouver and if that's any indication, I'm not that concerned…I'm
certainly impressed with the amount of preparation that goes on for
events like that, so I wouldn't worry about it."


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