On Friday 27 July the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will begin in London, but unfortunately worries over security seem to be overshadowing what should otherwise be an exciting international event.
As of Monday, 237,000 passengers will be expected to pass through Heathrow airport, while its usual traveller count averages out at around 190,000 per day. There will be 10,500 athletes, along with their families and supporters, due to arrive in London in order to take part in the games. In addition, 20,000 journalists are imminent arrivals, there to report on the most prestigious event on the sporting calendar. This is not to mention the spectators that are expected to populate the streets of London, and the stands of the brand new Olympic Stadium.
The issue of security at the Games has recently come under scrutiny, after the security contractor, G4S disclosed the news that they were struggling to fulfil their brief. They had promised to provide a 10,000-strong force for the Olympic security effort, however, it was only 3 weeks ago that the Home Office officials realised they would need to gather the workforce from elsewhere. G4S has subsequently been stripped of some of its £5 million payment.
Subsequently, it has been revealed that 3,500 soldiers from the Royal Army have been told to prepare themselves; they will be needed to perform menial security tasks and guard duties in and around the Olympic site. Some of these troops will have only recently returned from tours in Afghanistan. Families of these soldiers will receive free tickets to the games by way of compensation, as many had expected to enjoy summer leave with their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this security matter came to light whilst other concerns were circulating over the ability of immigration officials at Heathrow and other airports to cope with thousands of overseas visitors, who are arriving ahead of the Games. Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, said the problems in the arrivals halls at Heathrow were being dealt with. More officials are being trained for their upcoming tasks and given extra support to ensure that they carry out their work quickly and effectively. He added, "The training we are doing for all the extra staff that will be there, it not only includes basic training ... they will have mentors there to help them get training and get them up to speed.".
Many Londoners have not forgotten the bomb attacks on the Underground in 2005, which occurred shortly after London had been announced as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games host city. In total, London can expect to see over 10 million visitors arrive in town over the next few days and many will be there for the duration of the Games. The sudden need to draft in soldiers due to a failing of the Games security contractor, along with worries over insufficiently trained airport officials, will do nothing to help settle existing pre-Olympic jitters over the security of the games. Even more importantly there are worries over the safety of athletes, spectators, and the London community. Their security is crucial to the success of London's Summer Olympics.