Big crowds have seen no major incidents, security officials say |

Big crowds have seen no major incidents, security officials say

World Championships crowds have been large and enthusiastic, and security officials say, so far, everyone has behaved themselves.
Randy Wyrick| |

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EAGLE COUNTY — As you read this, knock wood or pretend to spit three times or do something that wards off the fates, because we’re about to write that everyone is behaving themselves during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

OK, here we go: “Everyone is behaving themselves at the World Championships.”

Yeah, there was the drunk in Vail who was under the influence of who-knows what. Police and security guards walked him quietly out of the Championships Plaza crowd and to a spot where he could reconsider his life choices, and then sent him back to his hotel.

And there was the guy who was touching some other guy, kind of like kids in the back seat of the car shouting, “He’s touching me! Make him stop touching me!”

Eagle County sheriff’s deputies handled it about the same way your dad used to, by saying, “OK! No one touches anyone else until you’ve graduated!”

But pretty much … and you should be knocking wood by now … almost everyone is behaving themselves.

“About the only problem is that the stands fill up and people want to sit in the aisles,” patiently explained Mike McWilliam, Eagle County’s undersheriff.

That can be a problem because if, in the large and enthusiastic crowd, someone suffers a health problem more serious than a broken heart because their country’s racer didn’t win that day, then emergency personnel need to get to them, McWilliam said.

Apparently that’s a fire marshal’s rule, which has almost nothing to do with Redtail Stadium catching on fire. Redtail Stadium is made of metal and is surrounded by snow.

Years of planning

Almost two dozen committees started planning for this in 2011, when the International Ski Federation awarded the 2015 World Championships to Vail/Beaver Creek.

It’s the second largest event Colorado has ever hosted. Only the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver was bigger, said Homeland Security’s Joe O’Keefe.

“We want to balance great hospitality with great safety. We want people to come back time and time again,” O’Keefe said.

The best thing about hosting a major event that’s so popular in Europe is that the races will be broadcast live to Europe in prime time. That’s basically one big, long commercial for Colorado going out to millions every night, and we’d like to appear as problem free as possible, says Al White, director of Colorado’s tourism office.

It’s a little like kids. You don’t parade problems around, you parade children around. And when you do, you want them well dressed.

Problems could be anything from an actual threat to a stuck door in Sochi that got 21 million hits on social media, said Todd DeJong with Lone Star Security, the private security firm for the World Championships.

“The question is how to handle those quickly and quietly,” DeJong said.

All hands on deck

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger and Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer helped coordinate security.

The U.S. Forest Service National Director of Law Enforcement David Ferrell and several Forest Service officers have been around, helping keep an eye on things

“The assistance of neighboring local, state and national law enforcement agencies allows the community’s needs to be met with the same great service they’ve come to expect,” Ferrell said.

The main event command center is at the Vail Police Department, and there’s a second in the Eagle County building in Eagle.

There’s a lot of stuff, and they need a lot of eyes to watch it all, said Barry Smith, Eagle County’s emergency management director.

Also, if something happens somewhere else, and something almost always does, then it’s handled, Smith said.

Because they’ve known for years what World Championships events are scheduled for each day, they also know what resources are assigned to it, Smith said. If they’re short, then they can look to some neighboring areas that might have some of those resources they can borrow.

“We have a lot of our local resources dedicated to this event. That takes them off the table for the incidents that will occur, as they always do,” Smith said.

For example, the Eagle County Paramedic Service’s staff of 85 responding to 4,900 calls annually. Part of the commitment to the community includes a community paramedic program in which paramedics provide non-emergency medical care to individuals without access to medical care. It’s the first program of its kind in the nation and provides a critical link to an underserved population.

The world is visiting, but CEO Fred Morrison said Eagle County Paramedic Service is dedicated to providing professional, compassionate and seamless medical care to the community, guests and athletes alike throughout the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and beyond.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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