London Games: more soldiers on duty than in Afghanistan
Up to 13,500 military will guard London during Olympics as security budget spirals
THE BRITISH Army will have a greater presence at the 2012 Olympics than it does in Afghanistan after the government revealed that up to 13,500 personnel will be on duty in London during the Games, with 7,500 helping to provide security inside the venues.
There will even be a display of gunboat diplomacy by the Royal Navy. The 22,500-tonne helicopter carrier HMS Ocean will be moored in Greenwich for the duration of the Games, while assault vessel HMS Bulwark will be based at Weymouth, the venue for the sailing events.
The Guardian reports: "The number [of personnel] is greater than the 9,500 deployed in Afghanistan, although the defence secretary, Phillip Hammond, insisted the large call on the armed forces would not affect operational capabilities elsewhere."
The Daily Telegraph’s Olympics correspondent Jacquelin Magnay says there will be a 1,000-strong "quick reaction force" on stand-by to support the police in the event of an emergency.
"Additional measures include placing snipers in helicopters, putting rapier air-defence missiles on high alert and scrambling fighter jets close to the Olympic site, particularly during the opening and closing ceremonies," Magnay adds.
Despite the drastic-sounding measures, the armed forces will keep a low profile, says The Times. "The Home Office is opposed to members of the armed forces providing security on the streets outside venues, believing that it would provide a wrong image of the Games to the world," it reports.
The paper claims Olympic security co-ordinator, Chris Allison, has demanded a 'blue Games' – meaning the public will see police rather than army uniforms.
The military have been drafted in after it became clear that the original plans had badly underestimated the number of personnel needed to manage the Games. Last week it was revealed that security costs for the Olympics have almost doubled from £282m to £553m.