Security will be tight for WEG

For the 16 days of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the Kentucky Horse Park should be the safest place in the state outside of Fort Knox.

Lexington and Kentucky State police will work with Kentucky National Guard troops and 1,000 paid and volunteer security guards to patrol the Horse Park, guide traffic, screen visitors and protect the yet-to-be-named Very Important Persons in the audience, some of whom are bringing their own security details.

"People will notice us. We want them to notice us and be comfortable, knowing that we've put real effort into the operation here," said Kevin Tyo, president of Event Security Consulting and Operations Inc., a Georgetown firm that won the primary security contract for WEG.

Security will be tight because the Games, like any large gathering of international visitors and VIPs, is a possible target for terrorism — although officials say they're unaware of any specific threats — and more routine kinds of crime, such as theft.

WEG's high profile is keeping law enforcement on its toes. As many as 60,000 visitors are expected to crowd the park on the busiest days, such as when the popular cross-country competition is held. The Games will be televised to scores of nations by hundreds of journalists from around the globe.

WEG officials haven't confirmed the guest list because of security concerns and because many of those invited have not responded, but it's likely to include government leaders and entertainment celebrities.

Past and present leaders of the International Equestrian Federation, the ruling body of WEG, include Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, its current president; Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa of Bahrain; Prince Philip, husband of Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth; and the Infanta Doña Pilar de Borbón, sister of Spain's King Juan Carlos. Some are likely to attend.

A large delegation of French officials will attend to accept the hand-over for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy.

Some entertainers in town to perform during WEG — such as actor John Lithgow and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan — will attend the Games.

Visitor checkpoints

Arriving at the park, all visitors must walk through the main checkpoint. Guards will search bags and remove prohibited items, including food, drinks, umbrellas and weapons. Tickets will be scanned for authenticity.

Accredited journalists covering the Games will be searched at their own checkpoint. The journalists, who will have more behind-the-scenes access than the general public, were required to submit their names and personal information for background checks.

The National Guard will patrol the perimeter to keep anyone from sneaking into the park from neighboring horse farms, and security guards will be stationed at the entrance to at least one of the farms with the owner's permission, Tyo said.

Parts of the Horse Park will be off-limits to all but essential personnel, Tyo said. The barns and stables, where the competing horses are to be kept, will have the highest security to prevent anyone from injuring horses or otherwise interfering with the competition.

The Grooms Village, where grooms and other participants will live in trailers, will be off limits to protect the residents' privacy.

More than 100 video surveillance cameras are being installed throughout the park, in addition to the existing security system. The cameras will let guards monitor the crowds from the Security Command Center at the park, which will be staffed throughout the day, Tyo said. The center also will watch the weather in case storms threaten to develop.

100-mile challenge

Perhaps the greatest logistical challenge is the 100-mile endurance run involving up to 80 riders, Tyo said. It will include members of the family of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.

Tyo said his guards are working with Lexington police, WEG officials and the sheikh's personal detail to secure the six loops comprising the endurance route, which include 12 road crossings in the area and cover land on several private farms.

Finally, Tyo said, he is prepared to establish a secured "free speech area" near the park if animal rights groups or other protesters arrive. At present, no protesters are expressing an interest in WEG, he said.

Tyo would not say how much his company will be paid out of WEG's $76 million operating budget.

The Kentucky State Police has budgeted $1.3 million to cover its WEG costs, Lt. David Jude said. None of that is expected to be reimbursed.

Lexington police have budgeted no extra money for WEG because they don't expect the Games or the city's accompanying Spotlight Lexington Festival to require overtime, said police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts. Existing shifts should be adequate, Roberts said.

"We should be able to do WEG and Spotlight Lexington and still be able to handle the calls we get from the community," Roberts said.

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