SBD/July 20, 2012/Olympics

Additional 1,200 U.K. Soldiers On Standby; Transport Concerns Persist For London Games

U.K. Ministry of Defence has been forced to consider a second deployment of military
An “additional 1,200 troops have been put on standby to cover more G4S security shortages during the Games,” according to Sam Masters of the London INDEPENDENT. U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday that the military “would be placed on 48-hour notice to step in.” Such action could “bring the total number of troops at the Games to more than 17,000” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/20). The GUARDIAN’s Hopkins & Travis noted the U.K. Ministry of Defence is “anticipating that some, if not all, of the 1,200 will be needed at some point.” A source said, “This should be the last call up. It would be hugely embarrassing if we had to go through this again” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/19). In London, James Kirkup notes G4S “has still not been able to tell organisers how many security guards it will provide, forcing ministers to consider a second deployment” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/20). Hunt said, “G4S numbers are rising and we are seeing an improvement in the company’s performance, which is to be welcomed.” He added that putting "more troops on standby was a ‘sensible precaution.’” G4S said that it was “making ‘good progress’ in training, accrediting and deploying people at games venues.” The troop announcement came as U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May admitted that her department "had been warned of a ‘possible temporary shortfall' in G4S security guards as early as June 27" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/20). 

GROUNDED:
In London, Richard Ford notes airports face disruption "on the eve of the Olympics as thousands of civil servants plan to strike on the peak arrival day for Games visitors” (LONDON TIMES, 7/20). Also in London, Alan Jones noted the Public & Commercial Services Union's “24-hour strike” is a “row over jobs, pay and other issues.” The action will “hit border controls at ports and airports including Heathrow, threatening disruption" Games travel (London INDEPENDENT, 7/19). May said the strike was “shameful.” She added that the government would “put contingency plans in place to help people come through the border as smoothly as possible” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/20).

A ROUGH GO:
The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Ainsley Thomson wrote the buildup to the Games “remained mired in difficulties” and “beset with problems” (WSJ.com, 7/19). In N.Y., Sarah Lyall writes under the header, “The Olympic Spirit, British Style: When Will This Nightmare End?” Many Londoners “feel they are getting the worst part of the Olympics -- the cost, the hassle, the officials telling them not to do things or go places -- without any of the benefits” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20). In London, Ben Bryant writes LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe "dismissed" the notion" that a “negative narrative” had built up around the Games. Coe: “I’m talking to people who think they have come to a Games that has delivered in the areas that they need in a way that no Games has delivered before. Everywhere we go the reality of it is people are overwhelmingly very positive about what we are doing” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/20).
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