SBD/July 16, 2012/Olympics

London's Immigration, Transport And Security Measures To Be Tested As Athletes Arrive

Home Office said it has 500 extra border officers posted at entry points to the U.K.
The first Olympic athletes “started flying into Britain yesterday with no significant delays reported" at Heathrow Airport, according to Kennedy & O’Connor of the LONDON TIMES. The Home Office said that an “extra 500 border officers were posted at entry points" to the U.K., with "every passport desk to be manned" during the airport's busy times. With athlete arrivals coming over a “staggered period,” the extra manpower “has been promised to prevent a repeat of the delays which have frustrated passengers in recent months.” Meanwhile, the first Olympic road lane “came into force this morning as the logistical operation to handle the huge influx of Olympic athletes and officials began in earnest” (LONDON TIMES, 7/16). London Mayor Boris Johnson said, “London is as ready, in fact readier than any Olympic city has ever been at this stage of the proceedings.” The BBC notes Heathrow “is expecting to process as many as 236,955 passengers on Monday, which would surpass its previous record of 233,562" set last July (BBC NEWS, 7/16).

HOLES IN SECURITY: ABC's David Muir noted there is a “security scare on the eve of the Olympics,” as there was a “major security breach (when) several people on a terror watchlist were waived right thru airport security" at Heathrow. ABC’s Kirit Radia said London is “already on edge ahead of the Olympic Games” and this “shocking report is perhaps a sign that for all the preparation there exists big holes in the country’s first line of defense.” The people on the watchlist were “waived thru immigration, (with) inexperienced officers blamed for repeatedly failing to catch them all in the last few days.” Radia said London officials "pledged these Games will be safe but this raises some serious questions” (“World News,” ABC, 7/15). The GUARDIAN's Mark Townsend noted a senior border official said that “inexperienced new recruits, deployed to shorten queues after complaints over lengthy waiting times, are repeatedly ‘missing’ passengers of interest who should be referred to counterterrorism officers when they reach passport control” (GUARDIAN, 7/15).

SECURITY BLANKET:
G4S CEO Nick Buckles said his company “would lose” US$46.6-77.7M on its US$441.6M Olympic contract because of its failure to fulfill its commitment to supply 13,700 guards. Buckles said that 3,500 troops will be "used to fill gaps in security." He said that he “could not confirm that all G4S guards were fluent in English.” Buckles added that there were “roles in which fluency in English was not a necessity,” but later “clarified his replies by saying that all Olympic security guards must be proficient in English to receive their Security Industry Association licence” (GUARDIAN, 7/15). In N.Y., John Burns wrote under the header, “Major Trepidation Over Olympic Security: Amid Reports Of Ineptitude, Britain Deploys Additional Troops For Duty In London” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/15). In London, Coghlan, Sherman, O’Neill & Haynes wrote Britain’s military “launched the biggest peacetime operation to protect UK airspace” Friday night, as concern “grew about the ability of private guards to secure Olympic sporting venues.” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will “chair regular meetings of Cobra, the Government’s emergency security committee, from Monday in a sign of the gravity of the situation” (LONDON TIMES, 7/14). LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said that the “failure of G4S to recruit enough guards for the Olympic Games has not compromised security.” Coe said, “We will work very hard, we will remedy this. Security will not be compromised. This is not about numbers, this is about the mix” (GUARDIAN, 7/15). NBC’s Tazeen Ahmad noted, “The organizers wanted London 2012 to be the friendly, relaxed Games but cracks in the $450 million security operation have transformed the atmosphere. … With two weeks to go, London is a city on edge. The U.K. can’t afford to make a mistake” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/13).

STANDING GUARD:
In London, Gavin Cordon noted Britain Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt “was at pains to defend G4S from criticism.” Hunt said, “G4S have been quite honourable. They have put their hands up.”Coe said, “It was only when the rubber hit the road that we were able to see, as G4S identified, a gap. The reality is, and I cannot put this any more simply, when they expected people to materialise, they simply didn't. That is why we moved quickly to stem that gap” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/15). Buckles said, “We accept that we underestimated the task of supplying staff for the Olympics. We deeply regret that” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/14). In London, Paul Kelso notes, “G4S, whose share price fell sharply in London on Monday morning, has trained and deployed just 4,000 of the 10,400 staff it was contracted to provide” (LONDON TIMES, 7/16).
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