Mon, September 23, 2013

London prepared to face potential security risks

By THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency


Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) walks with Chairman of the Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG) Sebastian Coe (2nd L) at the Olympic Park in Stratford in east London July 26, 2012. Cameron said on Thursday that his main priority was to ensure a safe and secure Olympic Games but that police and security services were leaving nothing to chance just a day before the opening ceremony. (REUTERS)


LONDON - There’s hand-wringing, stiff upper lips and on every street corner, pundits who say the possibility of a security threat has never been greater at any previous Olympics.

But a little calm, please -- no city may be as prepared to face those risks and respond to an attack as quickly as this one.

And, in part, it has to do with screwing up.

So let’s start there.

The recent embarrassment of security firm G4S failing to hire enough Olympic guards -- breaches in the wall have been filled by more than 4,500 British troops over the past two weeks -- means the capital and venues are likely more secure than they originally were envisioned to be.

A spokesman for G4S said Thursday the company is adding new hires every day.

But it would be hard pressed to reach the level of British soldiers.

“It’s simply a higher skilled force used to dealing with these issues,” says Dr. Tobias Feakin of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, a British think tank based in London.

But even before the infusion of soldiers, the security web has undergone intensive stress testing.

You can feel invisible threads every time you walk onto a street.

One source explained the testing reached the ranks of “Cobra,” the highest-level government emergency council that would respond to a crisis.

They’ve run their systems depicting multiple failures, just to see the responses.

While the London Olympics represent a tempting target for an organized terrorist group, Feakin and others believe a lone wolf still poses the greatest threat.

Feakin adds the most likely headlines will involve low-level street crimes, such as muggings or black market goods.

There’s something else that shouldn’t be dismissed as naïve.

London has a history of not only watching out for trouble but also dealing with it. It runs from the Blitz in 1940-41 to the 2005 London subway bombings.

Canadian expert Dr. Scott White, who worked for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service but now is a professor of security issues at Drexel’s Goodwin College of Professional Studies in Philadelphia, says common Londoners are a proven asset.

“Look at how they respond (to attacks) and how other countries respond. We shut down. They go on,” he says. “It’s a part of growing up (in England), that this type of violence is possible.” That’s led to a public with their eyes wide open.

Trouble can come to these Games at any hour.

There’s no question about that.

But no one should wonder whether London is ready.