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London 2012: Security forces get ready for Games

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David Bond | 10:27 UK time, Thursday, 12 July 2012

Over the next few days London will see a steady increase in military deployments ahead of the start of the Games.

All this is designed as a show of force to deter anyone planning to disrupt the Olympics and to reassure athletes, officials and spectators that London is safe.

But the last-minute decision to call up another 3,500 members of the armed forces to fill a hole left by London 2012's private security contractor G4S sends another message to the world - one of panic planning and disorganisation.

The Government and organisers will say this is all part of the fine tuning that happens in the last few days before the Games.

However, they have had seven years to scope security plans for the venues.

It was only in December that organisers had to review the number of security staff at venues - from 10,000 to 23,500, leading to a £271m increase in costs to £571m.

That review saw the number of military involved jump to 13,500. Now it has gone up again because G4S have not been able to train enough staff in time.

Organisers had to review the number of security staff at venues back in December. Photo: Getty

Huge numbers of recruits failed to show up for interview or training, leading to last-minute attempts to plug the gaps. Many who did show up were simply not up to the task.

So why did G4S leave it so late to train the security staff? And if they knew they couldn't cope with the Government's demands, why didn't they flag it up before?

While this is an embarrassment so close to the Games, it is worth pointing out that the overall number of security staff has not changed. Many people may feel reassured that the military are performing these tasks rather than private officers.

But the heavy military presence at the Olympic Park will likely divide opinion. Some will feel safer, others may find it intimidating. Seb Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee, has said countless times he doesn't want the Olympics to be a security event with a bit of sport attached. The military presence will change that perception.

A document has been doing the rounds in Whitehall assessing London's readiness for the Games. Unsurprisingly it concludes London is ready - but there are concerns.

Transport remains the big question. Yesterday it took almost an hour to make the one-mile journey from Fleet Street to Trafalgar Square.

The organising committee and Transport for London keep saying they are sure the city will cope but the big danger is what happens if there is a signal failure or a problem with a major road? This will be exacerbated when the Olympic Route Network - which is supposed to ensure athletes get to their events on time - comes into force just before the Games.

There are also worries about how Britain's border controls will hold up once thousands of people start arriving.

This Sunday is a crucial test as it is the first day when all immigration desks will be fully staffed in anticipation of the rush.

With the world's media arriving looking for a story, the smallest things before an Olympics can suddenly take on huge significance.


Today is the deadline for bidders for the Olympic Stadium. If you feel like you've read that line before, it's because you have - at least twice.

This is the third attempt to shoehorn West Ham United into the stadium after the Games. The first was scrapped after legal challenges from Tottenham, the second after opposition from Leyton Orient.

Daniel Moylan is the new man in charge of the body overseeing the future vision for the Olympic Park and its venues. He is a key ally of London Mayor Boris Johnson and a former deputy chair of Transport for London. He is confident the renamed London Legacy Development Corporation will get it right this time.

But as the only bidder in town, West Ham are trying to drive the hardest possible bargain. They may also demand more costly changes to the stadium scope - with a full roof and retractable seating adding an extra £50m to the conversion costs, taking the total to around £150m.

The challenge for Moylan is to finally clinch a deal with West Ham - the only viable long-term tenant - at the same time ensuring the taxpayer doesn't end up subsidising a wealthy Premier League football club.


Weather forecasters are predicting the damp, unsettled conditions could continue well into August. London 2012 organisers say contingency plans are in place for the sport and for spectators but if it does keep raining expect some awkward questions for Locog as to why so many of the venues are uncovered.


  • Comment number 1.

    Lots of military people, security everywhere, roofs bristling with missiles, security zone lockdowns etc etc

    London 2012 seems to have more in common with the 1936 Olympics than the 1948 Olympics

  • Comment number 2.

    After Britain and its people laughing at Greece (and also India Ukraine and every other country hosting international tournaments), it's now the turn of the rest of the world to laugh at Britain and its people.


  • Comment number 3.

    Re GS4
    "The company is being paid £300m to supply 10,000 guards for the Games, but the BBC understands it cannot now bring in that number"

    That means every 'guard' will cost £30,000!!!!!

    This is an astonishing amount of money for two weeks work plus a day or two training and uniform.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Yesterday it took almost an hour to make the one-mile journey from Fleet Street to Trafalgar Square."

    If you're doing that journey you should be walking.

  • Comment number 5.

    can any1 explain WHY the games are not statically located in Greece>Athens?'Greece the Home of the Olympiad' - it's not like Greece couldn't do with it.A purpose built evolving location ready for the off every 4 years and rented out for the other 3?as for the London games, it's gonna be a fiasco.UK should never have entered the bidding - the political squirming b4/during and after is/will be hilarious.

  • Comment number 6.

    Frankly G4S have too many government security contracts and a poor track record. Their relationship with Government should be reviewed.

    The army's presence will intimidate visitors and send the wrong message. Perhaps, the troops working with the public could 'dress down' so that we are not overburdened with scenes of khaki.

  • Comment number 7.


    Comparing this with Athens 2004 - when up until far too close to the Games there were serious doubts whether the venues would be completed in time - is ludicrous.

  • Comment number 8.

    3,500 extra troops would be needed, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.
    The troops are in addition to 13,500 already agreed.

    This is an entire army division and we only have around 5 divisions of regulars left

    The squaddies should enjoy themselves though

  • Comment number 9.

    I was beginning to think we would not have any sports blogs again. It's been ages since the last one.

    G4S hardly have a cast iron track record when it comes to getting the job done do they. I seem to remember numerous cases of escapes by detainees when they took over the transport duties for the prison service.

  • Comment number 10.

    I personally know 2 people recruited by G4S who have been recruited for Olympic security and signed contracts, that have to date, not recieved any training whatsoever. This is a shambolic situation that will ultimately lead to gaps in security cover during the Games. The panic button has now been hit, with the call up of 3,500 troops to try and plug the gaps. I am very relieved that I will be nowhere near London over the next month. What a fiasco!

  • Comment number 11.

    If it isn't shocking enough that the gov't has stretched the armed forces to breaking point, whilst cutting numbers beyond offering any form of future capability of any worth. Now they are commiting a force, many of whom have just got back from a war zone or immediately due to deploy, to act as car park attendents etc etc without any tangible reimbursement (note that the police will be on £80/day bonus) for the extended separation of the serviceman from his family, with lousy accommodation and 12 hour shifts (not including travel time to and from their posts). The Home Secretary needs to be thankful that we still don't have unions in the military (unlike the Dutch for example), otherwise she may well be looking for 17,000 more guards, bottle washers and X-ray operators. How many people in this country are on benefits? Surely there is and always has been scope to utilise this untapped source of manpower and maybe if these people got a taste of the conditions their countries military are forced to endure during this event they would appreciate more the actual worth of our armed forces and the conditions they have to endure on a daily basis in the name of Queen and Country.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Dino,

    Half of me agrees, but the other half thinks that every service person who is in London is at least not somewhere abroad that is a lot more dangerous.

    The money that will be reclaimed from G4S should be given to the extra troops put in to fill the gap.

  • Comment number 13.

    The junior minister wheeled out this morning on R4 to explain this spouted more meaningless management speak than Siobhan on 2012. The whole thing's an overblown farce, with about zero relevance to ordinary people in London. Can someone explain to me why I should be prevented from cycling a safe public route to work by soldiers with no visible ID, as I was the other day.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry to see this blog, David, has become a home for the doom-mongers and naysayers.

    Still, they don't have to want to be there and enjoy it. Those of us who will (and I include myself in that number) do can just enjoy the event free from moaners, I hope...

  • Comment number 15.

    With two weeks to go, Athens were still building their venues and a staggering 40 citizens lost their lives due to inadequate planning.

    A global event for 200+ countries that takes 7 years to plan and deliver, will have teething issues. While LOCOG might not be perfect and the overt military presence is controversial, all things being considered the Games are on track to be a great success.

  • Comment number 16.

    I news that residents are starting to move out of their homes at 2 of the missile sites at Fred Wigg Tower and the Lexington Building is a public relations disaster. The decision to install these missile sites on the roofs of residential apartments, is totally irresponsible and beggars belief. What a shameful stain on London 2012.

  • Comment number 17.

    1936 all over again, and fitting since neo-capitalism is the new Nazism.

  • Comment number 18.

    I was at the Olympic Park at the weekend and it looked like there was quite a bit of work to be done. The roof of the handball arena leaks when it rains, there are some cable trenches that need to be filled in and tarmacced over and some of the signage isn't finished. Also, the BBC's studio isn't built yet and the big screens of the 'Park Live' site aren't up yet.

  • Comment number 19.

    6.At 12:14 12th Jul 2012, Secretbanker wrote:

    Frankly G4S have too many government security contracts and a poor track record. Their relationship with Government should be reviewed.

    The army's presence will intimidate visitors and send the wrong message. Perhaps, the troops working with the public could 'dress down' so that we are not overburdened with scenes of khaki.

    I think you will find that 90% of military personnel will be wearing G4S uniforms NOT military uniforms.

    Also its not "the army" personnel from all 3 services will be involved.

  • Comment number 20.

    Our governments are behaving more and more like a paranoid schizophrenic. Like a mad King srrounding himself with more and more soldiers to fight off spectres and shadows. It's going to look pretty embarrassing for us.

  • Comment number 21.

    Fair enough, I haven't been down to the OP for a few weeks. I hope it all gets finished in time. I start my volunterring post at Dorney Lake a week today. Looks like I might have to get my toolbox out!

  • Comment number 22.

    Chin up. When I was checking into the Park earlier this year for training, the solders on duty were very polite and quite jovial. I think our military is something to be proud of and the atmosphere won't be anything like as intimidating as people are making out.

  • Comment number 23.

    So, they can't even run a sport event with a 7 year run up. Anyone else think that public school education isnt all it is supposed to be?

    Perhaps if the cabinet didnt all have degrees in pointless tosh like PPE...

  • Comment number 24.

    At least the military will be properly turned out. They will be smart and know just how to behave. They will be clean shaven, with polished shoes and are likely to have a full command of our own language. If you are worried about them, it is worth noting that the stewards in the Centre Court at Wimbledon were all in uniform.

    At a sports event, that I attend each year, that coincides with Wimbledon, most of the "security" is provided by retired warrent officers of HMF. These ladies and gentlemen are experts at giving instructions forcably, but with a few "sirs and pleases" to give the impression that they are being polite.

  • Comment number 25.

    All this proves I was right at the time London was awarded the games - Paris was the winner in the competition to host the 2012 Olympics. It's about as big a disaster as the Millennium Dome - another Labour Idea.

  • Comment number 26.

    I quite agree Richard. There could be no better advert for how the forces will do the Olympics job than the service stewards at Wimbledon: polite, jovial, but with just the right degree of authority. And they'll have a great time if the public make the effort to thank them for the job they do for us around the world!

  • Comment number 27.

    Goodness me what a lot of pessimists.

    Get optimistic & enjoy the Olympics. Having been involved in running a business I know that things are not going to go perfectly.

    The measure of success is being able to put things right when they do go wrong not to moan about it.

    As for the armed forces. If you watched Wimbledon Tennis then you will have seen for years past their Involvement in this sporting venue. Have you ever seen any one worried or complaining.

    Let us get real.


  • Comment number 28.

    Sounds like a cunning plan by the government ,get 13500 sqaudies in London under the guise of a security operation.
    Then make them all redundant after the games saving a lot of money on redundancy letters.

  • Comment number 29.

    Mr Bond is correct in some of what he says but unlike Security Officers, military personal do not have to be CRB checked. As a security officer even if you have a caution (which is not a criminal conviction) within the last 5 years you will be unable to get a SIA licence but miltary personal will be able to mix with members of the public even if they have a criminal conviction (which a lot do). The vetting process for an SIA licence relies on the SIA and the Police to do criminal checks, the police are supposed to do this within a 60 days window but in a majority of new appplications they fail to do, so G4S are very heavily relient on other people. A security officer waiting to obtain his/her licence for a first licence generally have been known to wait anything up to 12 weeks. Prehaps the media should look at the process before moaning about companies. G4S security officer is full CRB checked but military personal are not, if the army had to go through the same process they would struggle to raise the numbers required as simple as that.

  • Comment number 30.

    Actually depressed by this article David. G4S screwed up and there were plans already in place, plan B I guess, just in case this happened. That's it.. I dont, and I am sure the vast majority of people don't care if there are more service people at venues, in fact I'd feel safer. Oh by the way, it's sport I am there to see, lets not forget that... Thought better of the BBC really...

  • Comment number 31.

    Text of an email I sent to The Home Office earlier today.
    To Whom it may concern

    1, Given that G4S will not be providing the number of operatives they were originally contracted to, and
    2, given we know how many military 'subsititutes' (no offence meant to our brave lads and lasses) will be required in post, and
    3, given we can ascertain the cost of subsistence and accomodation for the additional military personnel, and
    4, presumably we know what the additional cost of the administrative burden is to satisfy items 2 and 3 above.

    The overarching question I would like answered is.

    Will the government pursue G4S for the WHOLE of the additional cost burden imposed by items 2, 3 and 4 above ?

    Note I am looking for a simple yes or no answer.
    If you cannot give me this then please do not bother to respond as I am not disposed towards filibustering or political spin.

    Kind regards and thanks.

  • Comment number 32.

    Is this the same military that the Government is handing out redundancy notices to? Slight change of plan. Instead of putting them on the dole as they land from Afghanistan, delay it until they have saved the Government's blushes for having screwed up again. What a disgraceful and disgusting way to treat anyone, let alone people who fight and die for you. Mr Cameron you have no shame.

  • Comment number 33.

    You've got to remember it wasn't this government who was charge when London was picked to host the games, it was Tony Blair's. We've had so many changes since then, our banks are in a mess, the economy is in a state and our Government would rather not have these Olympics. When London was picked the country was on the verge all that's happened now and we weren't really capable of hosting this event then and now we certainly could do without it desperately.

  • Comment number 34.

    The brits would complain if evrything was under budget, on time and a huge success. We just like being moany depressive people.

  • Comment number 35.

    What a shambles . Stupidly agreed by labour and mis-managed by the tories. O2 up the spout, travel chaos (costing the economy millions), cracked M4, and now they are turning London in to a military fortress. This is NOT what the olympic ideal is about. It was meant to be the peoples games. It's total chaos and should be cancelled.

  • Comment number 36.

    I've just read your blog; for a minute I thought I was reading something Yvette Cooper had wrote or said. I wonder which Party you'll be voting for at the next election? For crying out loud we know the Labour MPs can't stop trying to score political points over everything including the Olympic Games but surely you don't have to crawl down to their level. You should be trying to promote the Olympics at every possible opportunity.The last thing Labour want is a successful Olympic Games; do you?

  • Comment number 37.

    Whoever is in charge needs sacking for wasting so much money. What is the point of all these SAM sites? By the time you work out the aircraft is going to the Olympic park instead of Heathrow, its too late. You can't shoot a 747 down over London. The bits will land everywhere. You'd kill less people letting the terrorist reach his destination.

    This is all about 'protecting' us from that invisible evil (that they created) - terrorists. A trick learned from the US government. "You need us, we keep you safe". 21st century politics is rotten.

  • Comment number 38.

    May and G4S got it wrong thankfully we still have some resilience within the armed services at this time, and although they have been harshly treated the services will rally to the cause again. On the 21st June BBC news posted comment recorded in the guardian from the Chief of G4S stating more policing roles woul be passed to G4S - Windsor who ran an independent review of policing (and we are told is a partner in a law firm who advised Lincolnshire Police on taking on G4S) has now been made Chief Inspector of Constabulary to look at police efficiency. If G4s are unreliable this will deplete further the counties resilience for domestic issues

    When will we spend this money for constant reviews on an independent review of the government! the efficiency of its decisions and the cost of it's U turns.

    Having been harshly treated after fighting for your country and dealt with by a government without the honour you possess, once again my thanks goes to the services who will in this Fantastic Diamond Jubilee Year show us what it is to be 'Great'

  • Comment number 39.

    I clearly remember the British press criticising and openly ridiculing China 4 years ago; they too had armed forces on patrol, AA missile systems etc. But nope, the London organisers assured us we would not go the way of a dictatorial country - Britain is free and open, no way would we resort to the imagery of a military dicatatorship occupying our streets in our elected country. We'll show the rising dragon how to manage things, without violence, without force, the British way.

    4 years on and it turns out that far from leading by example, we are following by it.

  • Comment number 40.

    15 Kes
    "A global event for 200+ countries that takes 7 years to plan and deliver, will have teething issues. While LOCOG might not be perfect and the overt military presence is controversial, all things being considered the Games are on track to be a great success."

    You may be right, but seemed to overlooked the cost of reduction in personal freedom that may of us are having to tolerate.

  • Comment number 41.

  • Comment number 42.


    Mike, I don't mean to be rude but how exactly is your personal freedom being compromised?

  • Comment number 43.

    Missile battery over residential buildings? Are you guys nuts? Are you guys having Olympics or war games?

  • Comment number 44.

    Agree with 14: Teffers,

    Most people on this blog would complain at almost anything that was put in front of them.

  • Comment number 45.

    May be the people who awarded the contract to GS4 for £284mllion should be investigated. May be there is more to the stolry than meets the eye.

  • Comment number 46.

    #44 How would you like a surface to air missile perched on your roof ?

  • Comment number 47.

    What a load of old rubbish. Ms May will hopefully be forced to resign when the truth finally comes out about the original detail in the contract, and Seb Coe will sadly be shamed for his part in it too.

    Also sadly, the attitude of the press desperate to get a story practically camping outside the training place, and talking to ex staff who can't possibly be making stuff up, oh no no no, honest John, that's me name!

    Still, as we know, the truth doesn't sell as many papers, and our gutter press like to bring our Country down.

  • Comment number 48.

    If GS4 don't provide the staff then they don't get all the money. Fairly simple.
    Sounds like someone actually wrote up a decent contract for a change.

    'You may be right, but seemed to overlooked the cost of reduction in personal freedom that may of us are having to tolerate.'

    Maybe all the people moaning about the use of the military can take their place in countries like Afghanistan then? Maybe support those whose job after all is to KEEP US SAFE!
    They will be doing the job they are already paid for when called on, just in London not in foreign lands. Because it's not like they wouldn't have been being fed, transported, trained, billeted etc anyway would they.

  • Comment number 49.

    I think the Lea valley footpath should be re opened and not closed for the duration of the olympics.
    Its not a security risk it is an important cycle and footpath through east London..


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