Additional troops called up to boost security at Olympics
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
Armed police officers patrol outside the main dining hall inside the London 2012 Olympic Games Village in Stratford, east London July 24, 2012. (REUTERS)
LONDON - With the opening ceremony of the Olympics looming Friday, another 1,200 soldiers have been called up to bolster the security force, bringing the military contingent at the Games to 17,000.
"The reason this decision has been taken is just to absolutely de-risk any element of the (security) program," London organizing committee CEO Paul Deighton said Tuesday.
"With three days to go, we just want to make sure this absolutely works without any worries at all."
He said the decision to call up the soldiers, who have been placed on standby, was made at a cabinet meeting chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The move comes amid concerns the private security firm G4S has delivered only about 6,000 of the 10,000 security personnel it was contracted to provide in its $450-million contract with the Games.
"We signed a contract with the biggest security company in the world, whose biggest customer was the U.K. government," Deighton said.
"They continually reassured us they had the capacity to deliver. It was obviously a huge disappointment. This is all about their poor performance in a very strong contract."
He said bringing in the soldiers strengthens security.
"You can't be absolutely certain about anything with a temporary workforce, so we simply want to substitute a temporary workforce with a permanent, reliable workforce that we get with the military," Deighton said.
"We have an excellent plan. It remains in place and is working very well. What has happened is the private, man-guarding aspect of the force turned out not to be reliable and we have substituted it with the much more reliable and better trained military force. So the net outcome is you end up with an even better security force."
Jeremy Hunt, the British culture secretary, said the government did not want to leave anything to chance.
"The government continues to have every confidence that we will deliver a safe and secure Games," Hunt said.
In addition to the G4S staff and the soldiers, 9,500 policemen will be on duty.
Deighton said the challenge was to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators without taking away the enjoyment of the Olympic experience.
About one million visitors are expected each day of the Games, which run until Aug. 12.
"When it comes to security again, our ambition is very simple: It is to deliver a safe and secure Games," Deighton said. "It needs to feel like a spectacular sporting event with good security, not a security event with a bit of sport."
The transportation plan will kick into high gear Wednesday morning when lanes dedicated to Olympic vehicles will go into use.
A driver transporting media members to their hotels said that would be bad news for the already heavy London traffic.
"It's going to be chaos," he said.
Justine Greening, the minister of state for transport, said the plans should minimize traffic woes.
"It would be virtually impossible to have the greatest show on earth arrive in London and not have some queues and some disruption," Greening said. "But ... if Londoners can work with us hopefully we will be able to enjoy a fantastic Games."