Officials have been planning security for the games for years. They’ve mapped out security hot spots, rehearsed terrorist incidents, locked down venues, and gathered an international force of police and other law enforcement agencies who have vast experience in dealing with threats at big international events.
So why, with two weeks to go before the start of the Olympics, has England suddenly announced the addition of 3,500 members of their armed forces to the security forces at the games?
Britain will deploy an extra 3,500 troops at the London Olympics after a private security firm said it could not provide sufficient guards, the defence minister confirmed Thursday.
Philip Hammond said the interior ministry requested the move after private contractor G4S could not fulfil its commitment to provide the necessary number of trained staff for the Games, which officially open on July 27.
The deployment, which means 17,000 troops will now be involved in the Olympics, would impose an extra burden on the armed forces over the British summer holiday season, but was “prudent” to ensure security, Hammond said.
“As the venue security exercise has got under way, concerns have arisen about the ability of G4S to deliver the required number of guards for all the venues within the timescales available,” he said in a statement to lawmakers.
“G4S has now agreed that it would be prudent to deploy additional military support to provide greater reassurance.
“The home secretary has therefore requested additional Ministry of Defence support, and I have authorised the deployment of a further 3,500 military personnel.”
The extra deployment represents more than a third of the current total British military force that is fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
But Hammond said it would have “no adverse impact on other operations.”
The extra soldiers will work alongside police, private security guards and unpaid volunteers for a total security force of around 40,00 people at the London Olympics.
The Labor Party is seeking to make security a political issue, accusing the conservative government of mishandling arrangements:
Yvette Cooper, a Labour spokeswoman on security matters, speaking in Parliament on Thursday called it a “shambles” that the government was only realizing there was a shortfall with 15 days to go. “Why did it take until lock down to realize that this was going on?” Ms. Cooper asked.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who has ultimate responsibility for securing the Games, told politicians Thursday that concerns about a shortfall surfaced recently but only “crystallized” Wednesday. “There remains no specific security threat to the games,” she added.
Cooper asks a good question about why the rush now to fill a security void. This is especially relevant in light of recent terrorist arrests.
There have been 14 terrorism-related arrests in Great Britain over the last two weeks and, although authorities insist none of the arrests are related to the games, how believable is that?
Six suspects were arrested a mile from Olympic park while another suspect was arrested and charged with planning to detonate a car bomb at the park. Reportedly, all were jihadists (one man named Dart is a convert).
With the addition of 3.500 more eyes and ears at the various venues, it might seem that the Brits have everything under control and are doing all they can to make the games as safe as can possibly be expected. This indeed, may be the case.
But there’s a great big terrorist bulls-eye on London going into the games, and given the fanaticism of the enemy, even amassing a security force of 40,000 people may not be enough to prevent an attack.