The safety of athletes and public alike is of paramount concern to the security services, whose task is made all the more difficult by the geographical spread of the locations where the Olympic events will take place. Moreover, the different types of arenas in each site pose multiple security concerns, including transport security, crowd control and the threat of potential terrorist activity at the games. These separate considerations, when joined together, mean that this is one of the largest scale security operations ever undertaken in the UK.
Is the UK ready for this challenge? Tony Ball, Chairman of the British Security Industry Association’s Crowd Management section, looks at some of the considerations that the security sector has taken into account, and highlights the lessons that can be learned from past global events.
Multiple events Games-time security relates to far more than the sporting events taking place at the Olympic Park in London. Some sporting events, such as sailing, mountain biking and football, will take place in other cities across the UK, including Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow and Cardiff.
In addition, parallel events are due to take place across the country, also requiring a strong security presence. These events, which will include street parties, big-screen events and local festivals, will run at the same time as the London 2012 Games even though they are not officially part of them, and were highlighted as being at particular risk from terrorist attack in a government report released last November.
Then Security Minister, Baroness Neville-Jones, said at the time: “We shall focus on getting the level of security right at the so called ‘parallel’ events; those activities running alongside the official games which will add much to people’s pleasure.
“These can be expected all over the country and especially in London. […] Variety will be characteristic and the locations will be various too, some temporary, some permanent and they will be attended by audiences ranging from the hundreds to the thousands.
“Making sure that these occasions, which should be fun, are also not vulnerable, is also at the forefront of our planning.”
Security personnel Lessons from previous Olympic Games and other large scale sporting events such as last year’s World Cup in South Africa must also be taken into consideration. As the leading trade association representing the UK’s private security industry, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has been at the forefront of security planning for London 2012. Working alongside government departments such as the Olympic Security Directorate (OSD) and Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), as well as the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), the BSIA has helped to identify both the opportunities and challenges that both public and private sectors will face in securing the Games.
Recruiting staff in particular will prove challenging, as we saw during the World Cup, where over 44,000 officers from the national South African Police Service (SAPS) were dedicated solely to the tournament, and an extra 10,000 personnel from metropolitan forces were also drafted in to boost the total force to around 54,000. During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, forces were stretched to the limit. A huge cooperation of security personnel including the Vancouver Police force, United States security forces and a number of the Canadian military all worked alongside the private security industry to ensure continuous safety to athletes and visitors alike. This arrangement looks likely to be similar at the 2012 Olympics, with Police supported heavily by the private security industry, and even the largest of private security contractors will be working with smaller companies to provide effective security.
The practical application and involvement of the security personnel will be a crucial factor in ensuring a safe, successful Olympics. During events, crowds can vary from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, but in all cases it is always advisable to ensure crowd management and security guards are constantly on hand, be it to act as deterrents to possible criminals hiding in the mass or to maintain order should there be a threat of fights breaking out.
Officers’ duties include crowd management, operating of electronic security systems such as CCTV and access control, car park attendance and general monitoring duties.
Security personnel also provide a physical presence on the day and are a useful port of call for members of the public requiring assistance or information. Moreover, they cover the essential role of ensuring the health and safety of the event and guiding the crowds through emergency procedures. In total, it was estimated that around 15,000 security personnel were on hand throughout the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, a 3:1 ratio of security guards to athletes, with an estimated total security cost of over £600 million.
Huge amounts of visitors Maintaining the infrastructure of London during games-time will also present a large scale challenge. Most disruptive to the daily lives of London residents will be the huge influx of visitors during Games time. This includes not just spectators from around the world, but also visiting dignitaries, athletes and sponsors, all of whom require varying levels of security.
When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, a single games sponsor took an astonishing 6,000 VIPs from Europe to China. In addition to this, larger participating nations host their own Nation Houses, for example, Brazil will be taking over London’s Somerset House for the duration of the Games. Round-the-clock security will play a vital role in protecting all of these VIPs in addition to maintaining high standards of safety and security at the events themselves.
Close protection Protecting the many VIPs likely to attend the events who need one-on-one protection means that a comprehensive, close protection detail needs to be in place, as close protection officers are a must for protecting VIPs such as celebrities and politicians attending events.
In the case of the London 2012 Games, a large concentration of high profile attendees will be in attendance, including national and international politicians, celebrities, members of the royal family and well-known sport personalities. The close protection officer’s work starts before an event, with the in depth scrutiny of the venue to ensure all angles are covered. In most scenarios, officers must ensure that high profile attendees are able to go about their daily business with an almost invisible bubble around them, and reacting only when required.
Cash in transit The movement of cash, which forms part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure, has to continue unhindered by the large volumes of additional visitors in the city and the impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Route Networks.
These networks of road alterations have been designed to ensure the smooth transport of officials and athletes to and from venues. Three years ago, the BSIA represented its cash-in-transit members in the early stages of Olympic planning, to ensure that cash machines, supermarkets, banks and retailers will continue to receive timely and secure cash deliveries throughout this busy period.
So, with the eyes of the world on London next summer, a huge logistical challenge is well underway to ensure that the games take place safely and securely. What will be missed by the millions who tune in to see these historic events take place is the thousands of hours of planning, organisation and hard work that has gone in to ensure that the games are safe and secure.
The BSIA has been working closely with the government’s Olympic Security Directorate, The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and various industry stakeholders to ensure the celebrations of 2012 run smoothly, safely and, most importantly, securely.
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the professional trade association of the UK security industry. Its members produce over 70 per cent of the country’s security products and services to strict quality standards.