(LONDON) — With just 16 days before the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics, British officials are struggling to put the finishing touches on the $2 billion security package they have been working on for 7 years — and their “ring of steel” is starting to show a few cracks.
G4S, the $11.6 billion global private security firm hired to provide about 23,750 guards, students and volunteers to secure and staff Olympic venues, is falling short of its commitment, British officials tell ABC News.
“It’s become apparent they can’t deliver the numbers expected of them,” said a senior official in Britain’s Home Office.
As a result, British military and Home Office officials tell ABC News the military is being asked to make up for a shortfall of approximately 3,500 staff posted to the Olympic venues. British police, with a small military assist, will provide security outside of the venues.
Not unexpectedly, the military is grumbling because it feels it is being asked to fill the gap and not getting a lot of glory — or even proper sanitary facilities. British troops who recently served in Afghanistan will be helping check bags. Also, some soldiers who arrived at the venues earlier this week did not have access to bathrooms, a British military official told ABC News.
Originally, the military was asked to provide 13,000 troops, including 7,500 for venue security and 5,000 in specialist capabilities — search, air, and rescue support, including surface-to-air missiles designed to prevent a 9/11 style attack. Now the military will have to provide at least 11,000 troops for venue security — and as many as 20,000 troops total, or one-tenth of the military, according to British officials.
“We would stress that the fact that we are calling in troops is not because there is any increased risk. It’s to cover a shortfall. It is not because the threat level has changed,” one official said.
“We are confident that security has not and will not be affected by this. We’d always said it would be a mix between civilian and military. We’ve changed the mix.”
G4S confirmed to ABC News that the government called in additional troops because it feared the company would fail to meet its commitments. But a spokesman argued the company will exceed their requirements by the time the Games begin.
“This has been an unprecedented and very complex security recruitment, training and deployment exercise which has been carried out to a tight timescale,” the spokesman said. “We have encountered some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling over the last couple of weeks, but are resolving these every day.”
And bottom line: the people with primary responsibility for securing the Games are the police and intelligence services. And they say they have enough resources to do what they need to do.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Elizabeth Roberts, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN