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London 2012: Olympic Games security 'not compromised'

Category: England

Published: 20th Jul 2012 07:54:59

The safety of London 2012 has not been compromised by the failure of private contractor G4S to supply security staff, the BBC has been told.

The head of security and counter-terrorism at the Home Office, Charles Farr, said he first learned of problems with G4S in late June.

He said from then on he and ministers monitored the situation closely and put contingency plans in place.

G4S confirmed it could not meet its commitments only on 11 July, he said.

This was, Mr Farr said, after he asked for a guarantee at a meeting of the government's Olympic Security board.

Mr Farr was interviewed for a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Securing the Games, to be broadcast on Sunday afternoon.

He said the introduction of 3,500 troops to plug the gap meant that in some respects there was an even stronger workforce now involved in the security operation.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said the Home Office was told of a "possible temporary shortfall" in G4S security guards for the Olympics on 27 June.

Mrs May had earlier told MPs the government learned only on 11 July that G4S could not fully meet its contract.

But, on Thursday, she said there had been a Home Office meeting with G4S and Games organiser Locog on 27 June.

It was at this meeting that G4S admitted "experiencing scheduling problems" which could see a shortfall of "significantly less than 1,000" guards.

"G4S stated that the shortfall was mainly due to the failure to take account of the fact that large parts of their workforce would be unable to begin work before July 27," Mrs May said.

But she said G4S had been "unable to specify the size of the shortfall", and it was not until 11 July that the company said it would not meet its workforce target.

Mrs May revealed the details in a letter to Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said G4S first admitted recruiting problems in June, but the difficulties only "crystallised" weeks later.

He told BBC Two's Newsnight: "What happened on June 27 was that G4S said there might be a problem, they were behind, but they were confident that they would have the numbers they promised.

"It was only on July 11 that G4S said, 'No, we're not going to get the numbers we wanted,' at which point the plans that had sensibly been put in place in advance were actually put into action."

On Thursday, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that a further 1,200 troops were on standby to be called upon if required.

G4S released a statement saying it was making "good progress" and there were daily increases in the number of people working at Olympic venues who had completed training and accreditation.

The opening ceremony for London 2012 is now just a week away, and will take place at 21:00 BST on Friday 27 July.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has announced that thousands of Home Office staff will strike for 24 hours next Thursday, when many thousands of visitors are due to arrive in the UK.

The action will include the UK Border Agency, Identity and Passport Service and Criminal Records Bureau.

The home secretary said the strike was "shameful" as it threatened disruption to people travelling to London for the Games.

Mr Green said contingency plans were in place.

East Midlands Trains staff have also voted to strike during the Olympics, from 6-8 August.

Writing in the Sun newspaper on Friday, London mayor Boris Johnson said people were being gripped by a "paralysing stage fright" ahead of the start of the Games.

"We've got an advanced case of Olympo-funk. We agonise about the traffic, when our transport systems are performing well and the world's athletes are arriving on time.

"We worry about security, when we always planned to have a strong military role in making our Games as safe as possible," he said.

He urged people to "cut out the whining", and to "get behind our team and the Games".

The Great Britain men's football team play Brazil in a warm-up match this Friday and the women's team face Sweden, both at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.

The GB men's basketball team lost 118-78 to the USA in Manchester on Thursday.

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BBC News, 2012. London 2012: Olympic Games security 'not compromised' [Online] (Updated 20th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1441638/London-2012-Olympic-Games-security-not-compromised [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

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