Here Comes The Cavalry

It’s pretty predictable that an event the size and scale of the Olympics is never going to run completely smoothly. There are always going to be things go wrong, glitches in the system, last minute snags that need to be fixed on the fly. Completely understandable.

We understand that there’ll be the odd wet paint sign on opening day, that there will be mix-ups over which athlete is in which part of the athletes’ village, we know there’ll be delays on the public transport system.

I, personally, can even see how you could manage to not recruit enough staff to run the operations smoothly. I mean a lot of it is guesswork, so it’d be easy to be out by 30 people. Or even, across the whole games, by a couple of hundred.

But 3,500? Really? We’ve been planning and preparing for these Games since the day it was announced the French had surrendered London had trumped Paris in 2005. And now, 15 DAYS

English: The UK's new Home Secretary, Theresa ...

before it all kicks off, Theresa May tells us G4S have completely cocked up their recruitment.

Olympic security organisers and G4S are now spinning their bums off in the media to restore faith in their operations after Theresa May, the Home Secretary, admitted armed forces – some fresh back from, you know, actual wars – would have to fill a last-minute shortfall in private security staff.

May denied charges from Labour’s Yvette Cooper that she was presiding over a security “shambles” (a now massively overused word in both Westminster and the newspapers, but it would be when the Government produce a crisis a week), and admitted that the G4S personnel shortfall had only “crystallised” 24 hours earlier, despite close HO supervision of the £284m contract.

An interesting point about May’s ’24 hour’ claim is that, the same day, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the Commons he’d known for “around 2 weeks”. May is clearly playing fast and loose with her wording at the despatch box. Something many people have been caught out by before now!

Keith Vaz, home affairs select committee chair, said “G4S has let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops.” and even May’s own backbenchers suggested the company should not be awarded any other government contracts until it had paid “every last penny” of penalty costs.

G4S was contracted to deliver about 10,500 venue security staff, but only has 4k stationed at games venues and admitted yesterday that 9,000 more people were “going through the final stages of the required extensive training, vetting and accreditation process”.

Calling on the armed forces to supply 3,500 more personnel on top of the 13,500 troops it had agreed to provide for the Olympics creates embarrassment for the Home Office. There seems to be a lot of concern among London 2012 insiders that neither the organising committee nor the government is prepared to fully grip the security situation and there are fears of a vacuum in decision making.

Olympic rings on Tower Bridge overlooking the ...

As any Londoner would expect, amiable buffoon Mayor of London,  Boris Johnson, defended the last-ditch addition of 3,500 troops as an inevitable consequence of “slamming down the remaining loose nails”. BoJo said “G4S are very confident they can get it right but we’re perfectly prudent and right to slot the bolt home and have the safest and securest Olympics you can imagine. The general point I would make is that you would expect at this phase to be a general PR trough.”

Bear in mind that G4S, the company responsible for the Olympic security debacle is being paid £53 million extra for its work, after London 2012 organisers increased its “management fee” almost tenfold! A fee that has risen more than 10 times faster than its spending on recruitment, which tells you a lot about them!

So a full brigade – 3,500 soldiers – who were originally being held in reserve in case of a major terrorist incident will now be searching bags and staffing doors around the Olympic venues. Searching for bottles of wrong-branded water instead of the next danger to our nation doesn’t really seem a very sensible use of resources but G4S, the Olympic Organisers, and the Home Office don’t appear to have left us with any real other choice.

And all that is without getting started on the fact the M4, between Heathrow and London, may well be shut to traffic just as the world starts arriving!

Sign up to my ‘State Of Play’ newsletter for a regular round-up of articles and a primer in all things current. 

One comment

  1. […] by quoting myself. Far less interesting than the bard, but nonetheless relevant in this case. In my earlier post on the G4S Olympic balls-up, I said the following: An interesting point about May’s ’24 hour’ claim is that, the same […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s