Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Anger as students, not soldiers, will guard stars from terror threat at 2012 London Olympics

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor
Last updated at 11:02 AM on 15th November 2009

Olympic security chiefs have ruled out using the Army to protect competitors and spectators at the 2012 Games – and instead they will rely on thousands of teenagers taking a 30-hour events safety course.

The move has provoked anger among military figures, who believe Army expertise is needed to ensure the London Olympics are safe from a potential terrorist outrage.

It also comes after Army Chief of Staff, General Sir David Richards, said worry over Olympic security ‘kept him awake at night’.

Londoners celebrate as the announcement is made that London will host the 2012 Olympic Games in London's Trafalgar Square

Fears: Security Minister Lord West said the Olympics would be faced with the 'greatest security challenge' since World Ward Two with a threat from terrorism

Whitehall sources have revealed that the military will be called upon only to carry out ‘niche roles’.

The task of protecting the Olympic Park will rely on private security staff and 6,000 16 to 19-year-olds taking a specially developed BTEC qualification.

The military would be required only in ‘extreme situations’ where Special Forces troops might be needed.

Sources said they might also be used to supplement police and civilian services or ‘to aid the civilian community’ in a similar way to their use during the 2007 floods.

Director of Security for the Olympic Organising Committee Sir Ian Johnston

In charge: Sir Ian Johnston said the event would need many more private security guards

General Richards has privately told commanding officers to expect an increase in their security role in Britain.

In a private briefing paper, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, he wrote: ‘I believe that this role will increase in importance as the 2012 Olympics approaches.’

But last week Sir Ian Johnston, the Director of Security for the Olympic Organising Committee, said policing the event would require thousands of private security guards.

The former Chief Constable of British Transport Police said to provide the extra staff needed, 50 colleges were being encouraged to set up courses that would supply 6,000 students to patrol Olympic sites.

The Level 2 BTEC diploma would give young people 30 hours of training in ‘keeping people safe at events’, ‘communicating’ and ‘dealing with large numbers of people’.

Official documents say: ‘The Home Office, the police and public will be given confidence that a secure, vetted, licensed and trained supply line of labour will be available to the appointed private security contractors to support stewarding and carry out other important tasks at the Games.’

Speaking at a conference on Olympic Security last week, Security Minister Lord West said the Olympics presented the ‘greatest security challenge’ since the Second World War.

The level of terrorist threat is expected to be severe, the second-highest level, he added.

Shadow Security Minister Dame Pauline Neville-Jones said the Army should have a role at the Games, but stressed this did not necessarily mean it should conduct high-profile patrols.