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Olympics security worries US

2011-11-14 10:30
The athletics stadium for the 2012 London Olympics (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – The American Olympic team will be sent to London well guarded as security concerns escalate in the lead up to next year’s Summer Olympics.

According to The Guardian’s website, the US Olympic team are planning to send around 1 000 national agents, which would include 500 from the FBI to provide protection to American participants and dignitaries.

The report suggests that American officials have already tried to find out the number of police and various security staff which will be present at next year’s Games.

However, British and anti-terrorist officials are not at all happy about the Americans intrusion into their operations and are concerned about the size of the American contingent in the British capital during the period of the Games.

“We are not equal partners in this. They are being very demanding,” one of the officials said.

Pressure is building on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), who is understood to have underestimated the security requirements for the 32 venues to be used throughout the Games.

It was thought that only 10 000 security guards would be needed to adequately secure the venues, but upon review, it was found that up to 21 000 security guards will be needed.

The Guardian further reports that venue safety is not the responsibility of the police and that the firm awarded the contract to find and train the initial group, G4S, was responsible.

The company will this week begin an advertising campaign to meet that target.

However, the organising committee does not have the money to pay G4S to make up the shortfall, and does not believe the firm has enough time to do so, forcing ministers to turn to the Ministry of Defence for help.

The Ministry of Defence has offered 3 000 soldiers, and another 2 000 in reserve – half the total required. The ministry is working within its own tight budget, and the late request for help has irritated some officials.

“What have they been doing for the last five years?” asked one of the Guardian’s sources.

“There is less than a year to go and they've only just realised they need twice the number of security guards they first thought. Where is the money to pay for this coming from? It is an extra burden on the defence budget that we could well do without.”

Another source said: “Everyone has now realised 10 000 was an underestimate. This is one of the biggest problems facing the Olympic authorities because there is an absolute dearth of vetted and qualified private security guards. Senior police had advised ministers and the committee that 10 000 was too few, but nobody wanted to listen because of the cost involved.

“The military will have to stand up some people. Otherwise G4S have got the Olympic committee over a barrel.”

These latest developments will not ease American concerns, who believe that it will open the door for al-Qaida or any of its affiliates to disrupt the Games by attacking American Olympians or diplomats.

The Home Office and Scotland Yard believe the UK has a robust security strategy, but this has not stopped American officials voicing their concerns.

One well-placed source said the entire Olympic security operation was being prepared "with the US in mind", saying: “The US will have no qualms in saying it is unsafe. If something happens and we say we did not have enough people, we are finished.”

Another official said: "The Americans are risk-averse, with a capital A and underlined. They want to see everything. We are not equal partners in this. They want to be on top of everything - building protection, counter-terrorism strategy and VIP security - everything."

“They (the Americans) don't do things by halves.”


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