LOCOG Officials Try To Recover From Security Concerns, Mobilize U.K. Guards For Games
The depth of the crisis over G4S' Olympic security preparations “became increasingly clear on Thursday as recruits revealed details of a ‘totally chaotic’ selection process,” according to Booth & Hopkins of the GUARDIAN. U.K. guards told “how, with 14 days to go until the Olympics opening ceremony, they had received no schedules, uniforms or training on x-ray machines.” G4S received a $439M (all figures U.S.) contract to “provide 13,700 guards, but only has 4,000 in place.” The private security firm said that “a further 9,000 are in the pipeline” (GUARDIAN, 7/13). In N.Y., John Burns notes alongside “cries of ‘shambles’ and ‘international embarrassment’ in the House of Commons, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron said it had issued an emergency draft for an additional 3,500 troops, many of them just returned from Afghanistan -- on top of 13,500 already committed for the Games -- after broken commitments” by G4S. The government will “now field a total military force of 17,000, who will outnumber civilian security details at Olympics venues by more than 2 to 1.” LOCOG organizers “point confidently to what they describe, despite the hiccup in the security plan, as the most thoroughly prepared peacetime endeavor in Britain’s history.” Still, the “muddle over security has been a serious setback.” The troop deployments “will join a diminished group of private security guards at 100 sporting venues and other sites associated with the Games, including hotels to be used by delegations from the 200 competing countries” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/13).
PUTTING OUT THE FIRE: In London, Paul Kelso notes IOC President Jacques Rogge “attempted to play down the severity of the issues facing London, but acknowledged that athletes and officials should be braced for delays in the days leading up to the opening ceremony.” Asked if London’s planning was “falling at the final hurdle,” Rogge said: “No, definitely not. This is not peculiar to London, we have always had difficulties in the time leading up to the Games, this is something that does not worry us, it will be fine by the time of the opening ceremony.” He added, “We have been informed that the security will not be affected by this. It will have to be solved by LOCOG and the Government but we are very optimistic that all the provisions will be taken” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/13). Also in London, Magnay, Kirkup & Kelso cite confidential U.K. Home Office documents as indicating that G4S has “had its fee for managing civilian security staff for the Games rise” from $11.3M to $92.9M. The documents revealed that the fee the company takes for running its Olympic office “has risen more than 10 times faster than its spending on recruitment.” G4S on Thursday said that it “has so far trained and deployed only 4,000 of the 10,400 guards it is contracted to provide” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/13).
LEAVING A MARK? The London TELEGRAPH’s Kelso writes the security issue is “the most serious of a raft of challenges that have assailed organisers in the last 24 hours.” LOCOG said that it “would be scrutinising the contract to assess whether penalties could be applied to claw back some of the money” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/13). INDEPENDENT TELEVISION NEWS’ Keir Simmons said, “If the aim was to avoid the Games looking like a military operation, there’s not much hope of that now. In places on the Olympic Park today soldiers were as much in evidence as G4S staff" ("NewsHour," PBS, 7/12). A FINANCIAL TIMES editorial states G4S “emerges from the story with little credit.” The company has had “plenty of time to find the 10,000 employees it contracted to supply,” and it is “amateurish to admit defeat on the eve of the games” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/13). But in London, Lucy Tobin writes the security issue will “hardly make a dent on G4S's bottom line.” The company's revenues hit $11.6B last year, with profits of $431.6M. A contract worth “a couple of hundred million was just pocket money, more about giving G4S a reason to shout about itself” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/13).
MOBILIZING THE TROOPS: In London, Haynes, O’Connor, O’Neill & Ford report the U.K. Army is “searching for land to set up a military camp after being called in at the last minute to provide emergency security for the Olympic Games.” Sources said that Scotland Yard “became alarmed at G4S’s readiness for the Games when a senior officer, visiting the Olympic Park, encountered a uniformed G4S guard who neither spoke nor understood English” (LONDON TIMES, 7/13).