A look inside Pyeongchang's unprecedented security measures
Published Tuesday, February 6, 2018 10:00PM EST
Pyeongchang will be the most guarded Winter Games in history as 60,000 security forces -- including SWAT teams and military -- work to protect athletes and spectators from any possible threat.
It’s been a dramatic transformation for the mountainous ski resort that boasts a virtually blank record of violent crime. Now, heavily armed soldiers patrol the snowy streets, which are constantly overseen by a network of 182 surveillance cameras.
“There are police everywhere,” Kim Jingwan, who lives in Pyeongchang, told CTV’s Genevieve Beauchemin. “They’re doing their job, but it’s very different now.”
Safety preparations have been in place for months. A counter-terrorism task force has practiced drills on how to respond to weaponized drones and suspicious packages.
The biggest concern, security officials say, is a terrorist attack.
Those fears are rooted in past tragedy. Days before the 1988 Games in Seoul, two North Korean agents set off explosives on a South Korean passenger jet, killing all 115 on board.
The Olympic truce between North Korea and South Korea has somewhat reduced those fears. More than 20 North Korean athletes will compete in Pyeongchang, and the two rival nations will play alongside each other on a unified women’s hockey team.
In a gesture hailed as a symbolic breakthrough in the longstanding tensions, athletes from both countries are expected to march together under a unification flag at the opening ceremony on Friday.
North Korean athletes will also compete in cross-country skiing, figure skating, short-track speedskating and Alpine skiing.
Regardless, full-scale security measures are prepared to respond to any uncertainties.
But before the Games kick off this weekend, the security team has already met its first test: norovirus.
More than 1,200 Winter Games screeners have been quarantined and 41 are ill with the aggressive illness, which is known to spread quickly through crowded groups and cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Losing the security workers at the eleventh hours has thrown a wrench into the highly organized event. But Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said arrangements have been made to respond to the last-minute hitch.
“They’re doing really the ultimate possible efforts to make sure everybody is aware, and when there are cases, that the right measures are taken,” Dubi said at a press conference.
Volunteers and more than 900 soldiers have stepped in to help with security checks.
South Korea’s large military has bolstered security efforts. All South Korean men are required to enlist in the army for mandatory service that lasts nearly two years.
With a report from CTV’s Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin in Pyeongchang, South Korea