Olympic Security Rush: 1,200 More Soldiers Called In

Brits deploy nearly double troops to Games as Afghanistan.

ByABC News
July 24, 2012, 12:17 PM

July 24, 2012 — -- British officials called up an additional 1,200 soldiers today to try and fix what they called a security "fiasco" with G4S, the private security firm tasked to secure the 2012 Olympic Games, but British security officials tell ABC News even though they are finally getting the number of guards they need, they are still not confident in the training that G4S guards received or the security they can provide.

The British government has taken dramatic steps to beef up the firepower behind the more than 30,000 troops and police already helping to secure the Games. The army has deployed fully-armed commandoes to the center of London, and the Metropolitan Police recently revamped its armed officers so they can aggressively respond to an event in the same way a paramilitary unit would, according to two officials directly involved in Olympic security planning and development.

After seven years and $2 billion of planning, Olympics organizers have had to scramble just three days before the Games. The decision was made to bring the additional troops in, British officials say, in part because the security checks that soldiers provide is likely of higher quality than that provided by private G4S security guards -- many of whom are paid barely above minimum wage.

"The reason that this decision has been taken is just to absolutely de-risk any aspect of the operation," said London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games chief executive Paul Deighton. "With three days to go, we just want to make sure this works without any worries at all."

In addition to the more than 18,000 troops deployed to the Games -- nearly double the number that Britain deploys to Afghanistan -- there are a few hundred to as many as 1,000 special forces from Britain's elite Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, their support staff and explosives experts. Those troops are ready to respond to any serious event during the Games, according to the senior security officials.

At the same time, the Metropolitan Police has revamped its armed police unit, providing heavier weapons and intensifying training. Those police, the officials said, have the ability to respond to a threat using military-style tactics without needing military assistance. The new training is meant to address many potential security concerns including a Mumbai-style attack or even a lone gunman-style attack, not dissimilar to the one in a Colorado movie theater last week. Police admit there is no way to guarantee security at the thousands of so-called "soft targets" in London during the Games.

"I think in any major city in the world, you have to be concerned about Mumbai-style attacks, or any other terrorist atrocity in this day and age. You can't entirely eliminate risk," commander Bob Broadhurst, who will coordinate security for London during the Games, told ABC News this week. "The most you can do is to try and make it more difficult, more challenging. In the U.K., we have the advantage of having proper gun laws, but even so, you can have a legitimate gun, as you did in Colorado. I think you need to judge the response to it, rather than trying to stop it."

British officials insist there are no credible and specific threats to the Games and say the level of "chatter" is as expected before an event this high-profile.

Broadhurst also defended G4S, which was known as Group Four until recently, and said they were being asked to do a lot in a small amount of time and that police and military were capable of filling in.

"Whenever you're planning a big event like this, you try and look forward to what could go wrong. And funny enough, one of our contingencies [was]: Would enough security guards show up?" he said. "So what you'll see at most venues will be a mix" of private security, police, and military. He continued, "There's no point in carping or moaning about anything at the moment -- we're in this to make our visitors safe."

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