Now that the Olympics* are over and my life is returning to what passes for normal, I can start updating y’all about what’s been happening over the past few weeks.

As you may recall from a previous entry I had to submit paperwork and photos for a security screening in order to get my Olympic accreditation, which would allow me access to BC Place so I could work there. It turned out that getting the accreditation was only the first in a number of steps.

On my first day at BC Place I had to attend an “induction” meeting where the various site safety regs were discussed – hi-visibility vests, hard hats and safety boots where needed, shirt sleeves must be at least 6 inches long, never go into an area cordoned off with red tape or you will be immediately fired. It got interesting when the Chief Safety Officer asked everyone at the table what they did:

“Lighting.”

“Rigging.”

“Sound.”

“Pyro.”

You can guess who said that.

The CSO seemed a bit surprised to hear this, though I can’t imagine why as I wasn’t the first pyrotechnician to attend one of these training sessions. From that point on, for the rest of the session, he called me “Sparky.”

Sigh…before you ask, No. You. May. Not.

At the end of the session we were all given another piece of ID to hang around our necks; this one to be worn until Feb. 4th – if you’re keeping score, I now had 2 neck lanyards.

The pyro crew chief handed out another piece of ID later; a photo ID card that allowed us onto the actual Field of Play, i.e. the stage itself. This card was attached to the site safety ID card. Current score: ID 3, lanyards 2.

Because we were working with pyro we were expected to carry our pyro licenses with us, so that was another set of ID to be worn. Now we’re at ID 5, lanyards 3 (I keep my indoor and outdoor pyro licenses on a single lanyard).

Still another ID card was required if you were working after 9 pm, which in our case was quite often because we were handling the gas supply to the four flame bars around the Olympic cauldron. To get this ID card you went to the Production Office and signed it out – and you also had to turn over your cellphone; I guess they were worried that someone would leak info about the cauldron. Once you were done for the evening and turned in the ID card, you got your phone back. Since that card was a temporary measure, I’m not including it in my ID/lanyard count.

Speaking of cauldron security, I should mention that not only were the practice runs performed late at night, but we never referred to it by name over the radio…only by code words. If the producer had been in possession of an ENIGMA machine I’m sure he’d have used that, too.

In case you might be wondering why I didn’t just attach the extra IDs to my accreditation lanyard, it’s because we were told that we couldn’t – anything added to your accreditation would invalidate it. We were also told that the accreditation lanyard was part of the accreditation and therefore you couldn’t use a different lanyard with the card itself. Of course, after the opening ceremonies were done the rules on this were apparently relaxed a bit as a number of people – myself included – attached their FOP ID card (and the late shift ID if used) to their accreditation lanyard with no hassle.

Then there were the stickers.

There were two dress rehearsals, and before each rehearsal we were given a sticker to be placed on our accreditation card. There was a sticker that had to be applied for the opening ceremonies, and there was another sticker for the closing ceremonies. I think if I’d received 2 more stickers, I’d have gotten a free dessert with my next Olympics (of equal or greater value).

Here is a picture of my accreditation with certain details obscured:

Here’s a picture of the FOP card:

Click on an image for a larger version.

Now that I’ve covered ID, let’s discuss the actual process of accessing the venue. Every time you entered the site the barcode on your accreditation was scanned, the picture displayed on a computer was compared to the picture on the ID, and then it was compared to the face of the person wearing said ID. After that you walked through a metal detector – except for a couple of days when they let me bypass it for some reason I don’t comprehend – and put your belongings through an x-ray machine – except for a couple of times when they let me bypass it for some reason I don’t comprehend. Of course, wearing steel-toed boots and a bunch of neck lanyards with metal clasps is pretty much guaranteed to set off the WTMD – except for one time that it didn’t beep at me for some reason I don’t comprehend – so I got used to automatically stepping over to the side of the security tent and “assuming the position” while I was checked with a handheld metal detector. After being wanded, and occasionally being asked questions about my tools (I tried to leave them on-site but sometimes I’d forget and take them home at night), I’d be allowed to go about my business.

The first time I went through with tools (nothing special - connector pliers, a multi-tool, flashlight and small screwdriver in a belt pouch) the person running the x-ray machine called out, “HE HAS TOOLS!” and I had to explain why I needed them and what a pyrotechnician was; the person asking me thought it had something to do with computer repair (the hell?) so when I explained it to her I mentioned fireworks instead of my usual response of, “I blow shit up.”

One interesting aspect of the security checks was that the only time I was patted down was on the last day for the closing ceremonies; I guess the opening didn’t rate “Level 4 security,” whatever that is. Oh well – being Canadian, they asked me if I was okay with being patted down. Being Canadian, I complied. Being from the Greater Vancouver area, I wondered what would have happened if I’d refused and then pondered what being Tased might feel like. At least “Level 4” security didn’t include snipers on nearby roofs, as were in place during the opening ceremonies - that was a somewhat disconcerting sight for the crew installing pyro on the roof.

All of the security people were polite (and/or Canadian), and their training was apparently so ingrained that even when entering the site at 10 in the evening when there was nothing going on, I was told to “Enjoy the Games!”

Leaving the venue was easier; all you had to do was figure out where the exit was (the fencing they used to channel people offsite seemed to get rearranged on a regular basis). There were no security checks when you left so with a big enough bag, you could have taken anything you wanted offsite and no-one would have known.

I see I haven’t mentioned the site sweeps yet. The site sweeps were a 2-day process: on the first day, the outer areas (prep areas, office trailers and such) were checked and because they couldn’t be accessed for the 24 hours it took to complete the sweep, if you wanted to be able to work during that time you had to move anything you needed to within the venue security area. The next day was when BC Place itself was swept; if you wanted to be able to work during that time – oh, hang on…we can’t work because WE CAN’T GET INTO THE VENUE. Hey, everybody, we get a day off!

That’s enough mind-numbing stuff for now. In my next entry, which should be posted in a few days, I’ll actually tell you what the hell I did.

*Olympics, Olympics, Olympics…suck it, VANOC, I’ll use the word as much as I like!

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