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Vancouver prepares for Grey Cup festivities

There was a time when it wasn't hockey riots that concerned Vancouver residents – it was the bottle-throwing, vehicle-flipping and, in one instance, conga-line dancing that made up football riots. The city played host to five Grey Cups in the 1950s and 1960s and it was typical for police to make scores of arrests after the Canadian Football League's championship game.

While the hometown hockey team's last two trips to the Stanley Cup final have been marred by riots, the Grey Cup has become a far more peaceful affair. After the city last held the event in 2005, Vancouver police said they were "pleasantly surprised" by the "positive experience."

Vancouver city council will discuss on Tuesday how best to continue that trend as it reviews a report on the 2011 Grey Cup festival.

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In the publicly available report, staff recommend councillors approve a preliminary budget of up to $250,000 to cover areas such as the festival's engineering and policing costs. The Grey Cup's total economic impact, the report says, is anticipated to be more than $100-million.

After June's Stanley Cup riot, the report also makes clear that the late November football festival will go through a "rigorous" risk assessment process.

"In light of the recent reports from the city, [Vancouver police]and the province regarding the Stanley Cup playoff riot, the city has established a new enhanced process for assessing risk factors and determining safety plans for major sporting events," the report reads.

If an event's risk level is moderate to high, the city's advance planning unit and an oversight committee build a public safety plan.

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city's director of engineering and transportation, penned the report that council will review and said in an interview that the Grey Cup has been deemed a moderate risk. However, that could change by the time the big game rolls around, depending on crowd demographics.

While the city's $250,000 will cover engineering and policing costs, festival organizers are operating with a $1.6-million budget for the multiday event, which includes concerts, fan zones and the Grey Cup parade.

A Vancouver police spokesman said Sunday that it's far too early for the force to publicly discuss its Grey Cup policing plans. After the city played host to the 2005 event, a then-police spokesman said "there were relatively few problems."

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Of course, that hasn't always been the case with football in Vancouver. A report into June's riot by John Furlong and Douglas Keefe detailed the problems the city had several decades ago.

"Things really got out of hand in 1963 when the host city team was also in the football final," the report said. "'Hoodlums' overran the 700 block of Granville, harming bystanders with flying beer glasses and – more benignly – dancing in conga lines and lifting up a Morris Minor onto the sidewalk."

The hometown Lions lost that game to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Lions did not make the Grey Cup three years later when Vancouver again played host to the event. More than 300 people were arrested in 1966, Mr. Furlong and Mr. Keefe's report said, for turning celebrations into a riot.

The Lions started this year with one win and six losses, but have since picked up four victories in a row.

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Based in Vancouver, Sunny has been with The Globe and Mail since November, 2010. More

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