SBD/July 18, 2012/Olympics

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  • British Government Readies Up To 2,000 Additional Troops For London Games

    G4S aims to supply 7,000 security guards, 3,400 less than its contractual obligation

    U.K. government sources said that the Ministry of Defence “is urgently making preparations to call up as many as 2,000 more troops for Olympic security if G4S fails to deliver on its revised target of 7,000 staff in place by next week's opening ceremony,” according to Travis, Hopkins & Gibson of the GUARDIAN. LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton “in effect took control of the G4S operation on Tuesday alongside senior Home Office officials, working through venue security rotas ‘line by line’ in a desperate attempt to avoid the embarrassment of a fresh call-up” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). In London, Paul Kelso writes Deighton “is personally attempting to unravel the mess of G4S’s scheduling software.” G4S’ senior operations staff, along with military officials, are now working "out of Deighton’s Canary Wharf offices to salvage the operation.” Sources said that security "has not knowingly been compromised” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/18). Military sources said that they “needed a decision soon on whether more troops were needed because of the time it would take to mobilise personnel for Olympic security duties” (LONDON TIMES, 7/17). The GUARDIAN's Travis, Hopkins & Gibson note Deighton's decision to take control of the security effort came as G4S CEO Nick Buckles “admitted to MPs he couldn't guarantee to provide 7,000 trained and screened security guards by next Friday.” Buckles said that he “regretted signing" the $443.4M (all figures U.S.) Olympic security contract, which had "only been taken on to ‘boost the company's reputation.’” The potential $15.6M profit had “turned into a projected" $46.8M-$32M loss and the company "had already dropped any hopes of bidding for the security contracts for the next football World Cup, or Olympic Games, which will be held in Brazil” (GUARDIAN, 7/18).

    BUCKLES DOWN: Buckles said the security shortfall has been a "humiliating shambles" for G4S. In London, Ford & Asthana note G4S is now “aiming to provide a minimum of 7,000 security guards, 3,400 less than its contractual obligation, but can only currently deploy 5,000 accredited staff.” During his appearance before U.K. members of Parliament at the House of Commons yesterday, Buckles said, “Our problem at the moment is a shortage of staff. We just don’t have the staff. That shortage is going to manifest itself from today to the Games.” Buckles said that he “hopes once the Games were underway, the police and military will be given ‘three to four days notice’ to fill gaps in security cover at venues.” Despite his company's shortfall, Buckles “astonished MPs by insisting that the firm would not waive” its $89M management fee. Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Keith Vaz said, “I would definitely call on them to waive their management fee. I don’t know how they can possibly accept any management fee -- this has been the most appalling management” (LONDON TIMES, 7/18). Also in London, Booth & Haynes note LOCOG has the right to pay G4S “only for the guarding hours it actually supplies, and G4S is liable for any losses suffered by LOCOG in making up the shortfall” (LONDON TIMES, 7/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Cassell Bryan-Low notes during a “tense appearance” before the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, Buckles “blamed the problems on scheduling systems that had failed to effectively register staff and acknowledged that his company's reputation was in tatters” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/18).

    AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: In London, Ann Treneman writes of Buckles, "In the end, he was too weak. Vague. Limp. Unfocused” (LONDON TIMES, 7/18). The GUARDIAN’s Simon Hoggart writes Buckles “knew nothing.” The G4S staff shortcomings had “all come as a terrible surprise, mere years after the contract had been signed” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). The GUARDIAN’s Nils Pratley writes, “Only one outcome seems possible -- after the Olympics, Buckles will have to go.” Problems were “discovered at the eleventh-hour, little contingency planning was in place and even now G4S can’t be precise in stating how many hired hands will turn up” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). In N.Y., Alan Cowell wrote LOCOG “scrambled Tuesday to assure a skeptical nation” that Games security would not be compromised. LOCOG and government ministers “with their prestige at stake argued on Tuesday that tribulations in advance of the Games would fade as spectators focused on the ceremony and sporting contests opening on July 27.” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “I think this is not the moment for a blame game. This is the time to pull together” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17). 

    SURRENDERING TO AN ALIEN POWER? The GUARDIAN's Simon Jenkins notes G4S was "offered a crazy amount of money to guard a dozen venues for a month 'in partnership' with" LOCOG. Jenkins: “The word partnership is in this case a euphemism for someone else taking the blame.” LOCOG’s strategy "of not being interviewed or held accountable for anything to anyone ... paid off." The home secretary, the defence secretary and the culture secretary "all took the stand to defend the delivery company's contractual negligence.” London is "now being given a taste of what an unaccountable world government might be like, an Orwellian world of Zil lanes and G4S, private regulators and LOCOG inspectors roaming the streets, tearing down political banners and Pepsi ads." Jenkins: "Not since William of Orange arrived with his Dutch army in 1688 has London's government been surrendered so completely to an alien power” (GUARDIAN, 7/18).

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  • LOCOG Officials Remove 500,000 Soccer Tickets, Hope To Ensure Full Stadiums

    LOCOG expected that selling out soccer tickets would be their "biggest challenge"

    LOCOG officials have “admitted defeat in their drive to sell out all their venues, reducing the capacity" of soccer stadiums around the country by 500,000 and "launching a campaign to sell more than 800,000 remaining tickets across all sports,” according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. All stadiums outside London “will be affected, with areas of seats cordoned off for some matches.” All stadiums “apart from Wembley will be affected.” Organizers always expected that selling out the soccer tickets “would be their biggest challenge but the move to reduce capacities may revive criticism about the size of the stadiums chosen and the pricing.” There are 50,000 “non-football tickets on sale and a further 250,000 will soon be back on the market due to overseas returns and contingency tickets made available once venue plans are finalised.” They include tickets for the “opening and closing ceremonies, beach volleyball and volleyball.” LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe confirmed that LOCOG also had “abandoned plans to operate public box offices to sell the remaining tickets.” Instead, spectators will be “advised to buy online and pick up their tickets from a booth in Westfield shopping centre.” Meanwhile, Coe said that 733 athletes from 96 countries "had checked into the Olympic Village on its opening day and many had praised the facilities.” He said, "But for a missed turning and a couple of tweets, we're in pretty good shape” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Vanessa Kortekaas notes there were "originally" 2.5 million soccer tickets available. LOCOG has sold “just over half the football tickets, and is still hoping to sell 450,000 in the coming days” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/18).

    GLASS HALF FULL: In London, Robin Scott-Elliot reports organizers have admitted that there “will be swathes of empty seats at many matches outside London, with Cardiff and Glasgow proving particularly hard to sell.” But aside from soccer, “sales are impressive” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/18). Coe said, "We’ve sold more football tickets than we’ve sold for anything else. We’re not in bad shape on tickets. It was always going to be that football tickets were the challenge but I think we’ll do pretty well” (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 7/17). LOCOG officials said that they are “still on track to reach their ticket revenue target" of US$936M by next Friday's Opening Ceremony. In London, Jacquelin Magnay reports the excess soccer tickets, “most of which" were on sale for US$31, will "cost organizers lost revenue" of about US$15.6M (London TELEGRAPH, 7/18).

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  • Opening Ceremony Shortened After Rehearsal Raises Concerns About Length

    London Games Creative Dir Danny Boyle has been told “to cut the length of the Olympic Opening Ceremony with organisers increasingly anxious that spectators will be left without transport home if it overruns,” according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. The decision to “cut back the artistic element of the ceremony was made following rehearsals on Saturday night and Sunday raised concerns that the show will take longer than its three-hour target time.” A 10-minute sequence “from the end of the show involving stunt-bikes has been cut altogether.” There is particular concern that “were the show to overrun and leave spectators stranded it could set the tone for the start of the Games.” Organizers have "always said that they want to be finished" by midnight or 12:30am at the latest, but the "tube network will run" until 2:30am in anticipation of an overrun. It is a “hugely complex process that will provide a huge test of London’s readiness” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/18). In London, Neil Lancefield reports LOCOG “denied that the decision was connected to the G4S security debacle” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/18).

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  • USA Swimming Pairs With Disney For New PSA Encouraging Viewers To Swim

    Just keep swimming. That’s the message USA Swimming and Disney are pushing in a PSA that was released yesterday using footage from “Finding Nemo.” The Pixar movie is slated to be released in 3D in September, and Disney reached out to USA Swimming to see if it could hold a private screening of the movie for members of the U.S. swim team. The team watched the film last week while training in Knoxville before leaving for the London Games. In the Disney-USA Swimming PSA, Olympians Natalie Coughlin, Nathan Adrian and others encourage viewers to swim. The PSA is being used in the NGB's SwimToday initiative, which is designed to boost youth interest in the sport after the Olympics.

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  • Olympic Notes: Organizers Dismiss Concerns Over Traffic, Security, Weather

    The AP’s Stephen Wilson notes London Games officials “dismissed concerns Tuesday over a lost bus driver, a scramble for more security guards and some rain-soaked venues -- embarrassments that had one tabloid newspaper headline using the Olympic rings to spell out the word ‘OOPS!’" LOCOG organizers said that some of the complaints “were exaggerated” (AP, 7/18). In DC, Anthony Faiola writes under the header, “As London Olympics Loom, So Do Problems” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/18). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Paul Waldie notes organizers are “spending this week scrambling to cope with mounting problems caused by man and nature” (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/18).

    RAIN RAIN GO AWAY: USA TODAY’s Whiteside & Rice note after the “wettest June on record in the United Kingdom, the downpour has continued.” LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said, “Let's be clear, this is actually proving quite a challenge to us." He said that there are “contingency plans for the venues of the greatest concern, rowing and equestrian, if those events need to be rescheduled.” Slippery conditions at Greenwich Park, where the equestrian competition will be held, could “be a safety issue for some and a benefit to others” (USA TODAY, 7/18).

    CURB APPEAL: The PA’s Ben Glaze reported London taxi drivers yesterday “brought Westminster to a standstill” in a “protest over their ban from dedicated Olympics traffic lanes.” More than “200 black cabs arrived in Parliament Square just before 2pm blaring their horns.” Their demonstration is “targeted at Games' organisers who developed the so-called Zil lanes available only to Olympics officials, athletes and other approved vehicles” (PA, 7/17).

    GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE: The London Legacy Development Corporation yesterday said that F1 and EPL club West Ham United are “among four bidders competing to take over the Olympic stadium after the games leave London.” The LLDC said that it was “assessing proposals from the two, as well as from Leyton Orient Football Club and the UCFB College of Football Business, without saying when a decision was due” (REUTERS, 7/17).

    LOOKING AHEAD: ESPN.com’s Jim Caple noted while London “rushes furiously to finish preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics, work continues at perhaps an even more impressive pace in and around Sochi, Russia, host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics.” Sochi Organizing Committee President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said, "It's the biggest construction site, I suppose, in the world. Previously it was Dubai. Now, Sochi is the largest to deliver this unprecedented project." He added, "We're building a new city in the middle of nowhere" (ESPN.com, 7/16).

    CITY OF CONTRADICTIONS: The GUARDIAN’s Sam Jones wrote under the header, “Branding London: Selling An Olympic City Of Contradictions.” Those tasked with marketing the capital for the London Games “have been working on what they hope is a winning strategy.” The “only problem -- or challenge, as PR people tend to prefer -- is how to market a vast and rarely homogenous city to hundreds of different and demanding overseas clients” (GUARDIAN, 7/17).

    CLOTHES SHOP: A USA TODAY editorial states Ralph Lauren’s decision to have the U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony uniforms made in China “will someday be a case study in what not to do.” However, despite looking poorly on the clothing brand and the USOC, it is “some of the critics who come off now looking even sillier” (USA TODAY, 7/18).

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