Q&A: Olympic security


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What has changed in the Olympic security plan?

The Ministry of Defence is going to provide an extra 3,500 troops to run security at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The decision to bring in more troops came after it emerged that G4S, the company providing security guards for venues, was increasingly unlikely to recruit and train enough security guards in time.

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How big is the security operation overall?

This is the biggest peacetime security plan ever in the UK. Officials across government began thinking about it even before London was chosen as host city in July 2005. The security broadly breaks down into two parts which have separate budgets - the policing operation, costing up to £600m, and the plans to secure venues and other Olympic sites, which costs a further £553m. The Metropolitan Police has overall command of the national Olympic security plan and it answers to the home secretary. Its plans have been in place for a long time now and the total policing bill is probably going to be well under the £600m ceiling.

Locog, the Games' organiser, has been responsible for organising the security of venues but it in effect answerable to the home secretary because of her national responsibilities for making sure that the UK remains safe.

So what are the numbers?

Big. There are going to be 12,500 police earmarked to specific Olympic-related duties. But the controversial part of the equation is venue security. The government and Games organisers want approximately 24,000 security personnel available for venues. That figure is more than double the original estimate - and G4S was selected as the provider of the lion's share of those personnel. To date, it has provided 4,000 security guards who are already working and was initially asked to provide 10,000. But, with two weeks to go, it has not signed off the deployment of all the others which were needed to hit the 24,000 target.

The military had already separately committed 7,500 - but has now been asked to step in and provide a further 3,500 because the government isn't convinced that G4S can meet its targets. That takes the total military deployment to the Games to 17,000.

Start Quote

We have encountered some delays in progressing applicants through the final stages but we are working extremely hard to process these as swiftly as possible. ”

End Quote G4S statement

What jobs will the military do?

As many as 11,000 military will be performing venue security roles - such as general security on venue gates and bag checks. Some 5,000 personnel will be in specialist roles, such as bomb disposal squads, special forces and the controversial London missile sites. A further 1,000 will be involved in logistical support.

When did the gap in G4S capability emerge?

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, says officials were receiving reassurances from G4S until "very recently" and the gap "only crystallised" on Wednesday 11 July. She told MPs on Thursday that the company no longer felt it could guarantee the numbers it has previously said it could. Earlier in the week she was pressed in Parliament over whether G4S was on track and she said: "We have been testing our plans thoroughly and are confident that our partners will deliver a safe and secure games but we are not complacent and will leave nothing to chance, so we will stay on the case."

Had nobody raised any previous concerns?

The Public Accounts Committee did. In its March 2012 report into preparations, it warned that: "LOCOG and its security contractor, G4S, now face a significant challenge to recruit, train and coordinate all the security guards in time for the Games." The MPs said that they had been told by the Home Office and Locog that they were confident G4S would be able to provide "all the required private sector security guards."

Who's going to pay for the military personnel?

The home secretary was repeatedly asked whether G4S would be financially penalised if it has broken its contract - but the contract is with the Games' organisers, not the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence. Since her Commons statement, G4S confirmed that it has agreed to pay for the deployment of those 3,500 extra military staff.

Does the Olympics need that many security personnel?

The security operation has been designed with worse-case scenarios in mind. Nobody involved in the operation would have forgotten that the day after London was chosen for 2012, suicide bombers attacked the capital. There is no intelligence to suggest that there is that kind of threat to the Games - but the Home Office has constructed the strategy on the basis of the UK facing a severe threat, so that nothing has been left to chance. That means that there will be an awful lot of checking at entry points to venues which will be operated on the same basis as airport security.

Does this decision have wider implications?

The government has been putting massive pressure on the police to cut costs and G4S and other companies have been queuing up to offer their services. Lincolnshire Police, for instance, has already signed a massive deal with the company. But the rank-and-file are largely opposed to more civilianisation and privatisation of police roles. The Police Federation says that a constable's first duty is to the public and a private company's first duty is to its profits. Many police were hoping that the controversy over Olympic recruitment would slow the pace of privatisation. Since the Olympics news broke Surrey Police Authority has decided to shelve its outsourcing plans - but that may not be overly surprising as the incoming chief constable had wanted the force to rethink the plans.

Dominic Casciani Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The Lea Valley towpath should be re opened . Its not a security risk but it is an important cycle and footpath through east London


  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Considering that one of the main requirements for the olympic security teams is a Valid SIA badge why are fully trained staff are being deployed 'on site' with "Bridging the gap" employees? "Bridging the gap" employees are young people (many as young as 18) wearing the same security uniforms as 'fully trained' staff yet have no SIA badges, surely this is against the G4s policy?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Theresa May struggles with getting days of the week right let alone being responsible for the largest peacetime security operation in the UK.

    G4S shareholders should pay the bill, not tax payer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    As usual, the armed forces are covering for other people's incompetence and greed.

    Morale was already low with the little downtime between constant Afghanistan tours. Now thousands are having to cancel holidays to work 9 days on, 1 off 14 hour days. The accomedation is a discrace, overall, pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We need to remember that the main responsibility for security of olympic venues rests with LOCOG. Aparrently they did not recognise the scale of the job NOR did they react in time ensure the successful deployment of (their figures) 10,000 full time guards AND 10,000 initially untrained or cleared volunteers. They were recruiting training staff leaders only in January 2012 - a bit late no?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.


    So the Home Secretary has no responsibility?

    Atlanta 1996 was 100% financed privately. It was the first and last Games to do so.

    Sack ALL those with responsibility for the fiasco.If TM says it is nothing to do with her, then ask her what she is getting paid for...

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I think what has changed is that the firm that as contracted to do the security has just proved that thy are not fit for the purpose of that security so therefore we the taxpyers want all the money back that they have been paid and them sacking and stopped from being able to bid for ANYMORE govt contracts and then also sack May as everything she presides over turns into a disaster

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    @deetee... The issue isn't seeing armed forces personnel in uniform at these events, as there are already plans for more than 13,000 troops to be deployed for security & logistical purposes anyway. The issue is that G4S haven't been able to provide the numbers of security staff they said they would & that this was discovered so late in the preparations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    @2 : You say "Sack those responsible at G4S and the Home Secretary."

    1. The article clearly says: "the contract is with the Games' organisers, not the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence."

    So why sack Theresa May?

    2. Why is it always calls for the sack? People make mistakes, that's how we learn; do we want improvements, or easy scapegoats?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Same old Story, same old song. Unelected private profit motivation virtually responsible to nobody taking us for fools as they try to skim off a few more millions from our hard earned. I am not a trader or a profit margin freak, I'm not against reasonable taxes from ALL. How long have we to put up with this

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Can someone explain to me why it will be such a big issue seeing uniformed members of the armed forces at the Olympics. I've just watched 2 weeks of Winbledon and I didn't see anyone running away screaming from any of the hundreds of uniformed Armed Forces personnel who assist there. Is tennis somehow different?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The bid to host the Olympics in London 2012 was won in 2005.

    And it comes out 15 days before they are due to commence that security in undermanned because a contractor failed its contract?

    So we (the Taxpayer) have to underwrite an extra 3,500 troops to make up the numbers.

    Sack those responsible at G4S and the Home Secretary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Why is it that in any other realm of business a contract is drawn up with penalties should a party not be able to fulfill its contractual commitments. Yet when it is a Government contract people can turn around and say they have failed to achieve what they are contractually committed to provide but can seemingly avoid any kind of sanction or financial penalty?



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