Exploring London has just become much tougher. As athletes, journalists and sponsors pour into the Big Smoke, the talk of the town is Olympic security – and the controversies around it.
Over the last few months, the police and military have been preparing for the Olympics in almost every way imaginable. But this past week it was revealed that the company in charge of providing civilian security guards for the Olympic venues – G4S – is short 3,500 people and the military will need to provide the remaining people.
This is a black eye for London as we are on the brink of hosting citizens from nearly every country in the world.
Thankfully, the military and police have been preparing for a variety of situations and are taking steps to make sure the Games are a safe event for visitors and Londoners. To date emergency and law enforcement groups have staged a series of “live” security rehearsals that will prepare them for Mumbai-style attacks, an armed assault on London via the Thames River, terrorist attacks on the Underground and air defense exercises featuring RAF Puma and Navy Lynx helicopters.
If the drills themselves aren’t impressive enough, here’s a quick look at the other security measures that are either in place or will be soon:
- 7,500 armed forces members are working as security at Olympic venues
- 3,500 additional soldiers will make up for a lack of private security
- 10,000 6,500 civilians security members will work at Olympic venues
- 13,000 troops are stationed on the HMS Ocean and prepared to assist in the event of a crisis
- HMS Ocean – the British navy’s largest warship – sits in the Thames and is prepared for a variety of crisis situations
- Typhoon attack planes – the same ones that saw action recently in Lybia – are stationed only a few minutes away from London
- Rapier surface-to-air missiles are positioned in Blackheath
- Snipers in helicopters will patrol the skies (stationed on the HMS Ocean)
- Crowd control weapons that create “head-splitting pain” could be used to disperse crowds
- 48,000 additional security staff will protect non-Olympic facilities throughout the city
- Aircraft that stray off course or arrive unannounced could be shot down (as a last resort) if they do not follow the instructions provided by military fighters and helicopters
Perhaps the most intimidating of all is the Olympic Park “safe zone”, which was created by 18km of electrified fencing and 55 teams of patrolling guards with attack dogs.
Additionally, the London Olympic Games Act gives police sweeping power to clear areas, demonstrations and individuals deemed to be guilty of anti-social behavior. This means that the Occupy London protesters and other groups trying to disrupt the Games, will be quickly dealt with.
As intelligence agencies agree that the Games are a target for both al-Qaeda and a variety of other groups, it’s a shame London’s Olympic guests won’t be able to explorer the city like many of us living here, but the many layers of security in place are a necessary sacrifice for our security.
To all of the soldiers and police officers that have to make sacrifices during London 2012, thank you.
- Financial Times (Calls for Locog to explain games security fiasco – 07/14/12)
- The Mirror (G4S Olympic security fiasco: Firm fails to recruit and train enough guards so army steps in…, 07/13/12)
- Metro (3,500 soldiers to fill big hole in Olympic security, 07/12/12)
- The Independent on Sunday (Games will be al-Qa’ida target, says Europol – 05/27/12)
- Evening Standard (Emergency crews stage tube terror attack drill – 02/22/12)
- Evening Standard (Marines join police for dry run of Thames terror attack during Olympics, 01/19/12)
- Evening Standard (On your marks for security work – 01/26/12)
- Evening Standard (…and snipers in helicopters to guard Olympics – Nicholas Cecil, 2011)