Olympics suffer security hitch

Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 01:00

Britain's home secretary was forced to answer questions in parliament today after admitting that she was putting extra troops on standby for Olympic security because a private contractor might not meet its commitments.

"Let me reiterate there is no question of Olympic security being compromised," Home Secretary Theresa May told the chamber, just two weeks before the London Games begin.

The last-minute security hitch is acutely embarrassing for the ruling coalition, with the eyes of the world due to be trained on London for the world's biggest sporting festival, starting on July 27th.

About 23,700 security guards were due to protect venues as part of Britain's biggest peacetime security operation, and 13,500 military personnel had already been earmarked to contribute to this. Yesterday, however, the government put an extra 3,500 soldiers on standby after the private security firm G4S said it might not be able to supply the 10,400 security guards it had contracted to provide.

Shares in the group were down 3 per cent in trading earlier today as analysts and some politicians questioned whether the embarrassment could hit other parts of the G4S business.

Thousands of athletes and officials are expected to start arriving in London this weekend, and the Olympic Village opens its doors on Monday.

The security guards are needed to provide airport-style checks to search and screen spectators, and can also check vehicles. They will be also responsible for queue management and protecting the perimeters and equipment.

The British government faces an awkward balancing act in trying to guarantee security at the Games, which could provide an high-profile target for Islamic militants and others, while not letting its precautions become so intrusive that they spoil the atmosphere of the Games.

Reuters