The Opening Ceremonies are two weeks away, but organizers of the London Olympics are already taking heat over what could turn out to be the Games' worst nightmare — a gigantic hole in security.
As our sister site The Atlantic Cities has noted, the private company that was contracted to handle security for the games has just this week admitted they haven't hired enough people to cover all its duties. That "barmy error" is forcing the government step in with 3,500 active duty soldiers who have had little time to train for things like crowd management and will have to sleep in tents on the streets of London. The company, G4S, is already under attack by the public and will likely be asked to give back some of the £500 million it was paid to apparently not handle this logistical dilemma.
If that wasn't bad enough, a "whistleblower" has told Sky News that the people G4S does have are basically incompetent and there's a "50-50 chance" that a terrorist could carry a bomb or a gun past the gates and into an Olympic venue. He said that the new staff has routinely allowed weapons and bombs to escape detection during training exercises, but that no one really fails or gets fired — probably because they need all the warm bodies they can get. All this despite being the largest private security company in Europe (by revenue) with years of experience protecting vital installations and high-value targets in war zones like Afghanistan ... and knowing they had the Olympic contract seven years ago.
So now it's up to the military and police, who are already stretched thin, to pick up the slack. There will be 17,000 soldiers working the Games and they've taken plenty of guff already for essentially militarizing the capital city. There are new flight restrictions, surface-to-air missiles on apartment buildings, and navy warships in the Thames. British Home Secretary Theresa May had to assure Parliament yesterday that the security will not be a "shambles," but the local media and citizens probably don't feel too sure about that.
At best, Londoners already expect long lines, unruly crowds, clogged public transportation and streets, and a general nuisance beyond belief. (Oh, and lots and lots of rain.) At worst ... well, we're trying not to think about the worst, but we just hope that Britain's "largest security operation since World War II" isn't for nothing.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.