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SBD Global/July 13, 2012/Olympics

LOCOG Says Security Seems 'Under Control' Despite SOS For Military Support

LOCOG officials "seem to have almost everything firmly under control" with more than two weeks before the start of the London Games, but there are “uncomfortable reminders of the challenge posed by the biggest and most important task of them all: ensuring the safety of athletes and fans during an age of international terrorism,” according to a cover story by Traci Watson in a special for USA TODAY. No specific threats to the Games “are known, and none of those arrested” last week on terrorisism charges at a house a mile from Olympic Stadium are “known to have plotted to disrupt the Olympics.” Yet these recent incidents “illustrate the enormity of the task of guarding against terrorists, who surely dream of making a high-profile splash during a Games.” The security campaign is “nearly a decade in the making,” and will be the “largest ever mounted in peacetime, complete with fighter jets, frogmen and surface-to-air missiles mounted on apartment buildings near Olympic Park.” Neither military leaders nor Olympics organizers “care to see a repeat" of the 1972 Munich Game or the 1996 Atlanta Games. Still, homegrown terrorism “remains a major concern after the so-called 7/7 attack in 2005.” Security officials must also contend “with violent Irish nationalists, who want to gain control of Northern Ireland.” To guard against “the ugly possibilities, officials have put together a plan that will cost more than $2.5B -- nearly 50% more than was spent on security in Athens -- and will severely stretch the country's security personnel” (USA TODAY, 7/12).

LAST-MINUTE DECISION: In London, Hopkins, Gibson & Mulholland noted the U.K. government has warned that G4S will “face financial penalties after the military was forced to provide up to 3,500 troops following the private security firm's failure to deliver the promised number of staff for the London Olympic Games.” Government officials were “forced into the last-ditch move only a fortnight before the Games are due to begin because they were concerned G4S could not guarantee it would be able to supply the 13,700 guards it was contracted to deliver” (GUARDIAN, 7/12). In London, Rosa Prince noted, “3,500 soldiers have been told to prepare to perform often menial tasks at the Games, including many who have returned only recently from tours of Afghanistan.” U.K. Home Office Minister for Security James Brokenshire said that some of the US$826M contract awarded to G4S “was intended to cover wages for security guards, and as a result, this money would be withheld.” But he did not say "how much would be held back” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/12). Also in London, Booth, Coghlan & Ford noted as recently as Monday, U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May “was still defending G4S,” but government officials now have “lost patience with the efforts of the security contractor G4S to recruit and train enough private sector guards.” May’s “change of heart follows a meeting yesterday with representatives of G4S” (LONDON TIMES, 7/12). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Warren & Blitz wrote that amid fiery questioning from fellow MPs Theresa May denied charges from the opposition that she was presiding over a security “shambles,” and admitted that the G4S personnel shortfall had only “crystallised” 24 hours earlier. Labour MP and chair of the home affairs select committee Keith Vaz said the contractual breakdown only 15 days before the games was a matter of “deep concern." Vaz: “G4S has let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops.” Conservative MP Philip Hollobone suggested the company should not be awarded any other government contracts until it had paid “every last penny” of penalty costs (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/12).
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