OLYMPIC GAMES 2012
POTENTIAL SECURITY COSTS AND IMPLICATIONS
The economic gloom and confused politics of 2009 mean that the Government will be promoting the 2012 Olympic Games to an even greater extent. But there are key issues that are little discussed in public. One is the security arrangements and the probable real costs. Their will be a reluctance on the part of the Games organisers to say much about these questions. The security requirements for the G20 Meeting of Heads of State and the watch on terrorism have been minor efforts in comparison to the policing and security needed in 2012.
In the modern Olympic Games there have been only a minority where heavy security and military presence has been necessary. The Beijing Games of 2008 was one and represents the benchmark for 2012, but how many were counting the total security manpower? Others were the Berlin Games of 1936 and the following Games in 1948 in London that drew on the lessons of its predecessor in that the substantial military involvement was necessary for their organisation and management. The 1980 Moscow Games relied heavily on the military for the running and support facilities and political control. In all of these the relevant Olympic hosts had substantial military forces, other facilities, and overall powers of action that will not be available to London in 2012.
What Security Risks in 2012?
London, because of its central position in Britain’s Imperial history, and the epicentre of the UK modern government, financial, and media systems has a role unlike that of many Olympic hosts of the recent past. In recent years large scale migration from across the world has had the consequence that London has become host to all the world’s sorrows and conflicts. Groups from almost anywhere in the world who have enmities or hatreds are present in London, whether peaceful, involved in conflict abroad, or potentially beyond the law or violent in the UK. The state of current law in the UK allows considerable opportunities for recruitment, indoctrination, training, planning, and logistical requirements of violent dissident groups. It is unlikely that the total number and scope of their activities will be reduced by 2012. They are likely to increase given the spreading economic disruptions in all the world’s polities and economies. These events will spill increasingly discontented and complicated elements into London, the South East, and other urban areas.
Policing at present is in little evidence in some parts of London, spawning gangs and groups of feral youngsters, both increasingly lethal in their outlook. There is the worse prospect of some of these becoming enmeshed with the hatreds, disputes, and armed confrontations of embittered groups. It is not simply a powder keg; it is a large warehouse full of big nasty fireworks, any or all of which could go off in 2012.
In the summer of 2012 the requirements will be more than a few smiling policemen directing the traffic and telling the time with a crew of blazer clad volunteers running about with millboards trying to be useful, although some of these will be needed for media and publicity purposes; nor regular staff on overtime to cope with the extra numbers on public transport. It will mean an army of trained, expert, and effectively commanded people across the south east of England and at points elsewhere, rather more capable, better organised and co-ordinated than the present forces.
What Will The 2012 Security Demands Be?
The entry points to the UK by air, sea, and land will need additional controls and safeguards with substantially more efficient communications, support and co-ordination facilities.
Existing sensitive security, research, military and related locations will need augmented protection during and up to the period of the Games. We do not want one Liberation Front or another raiding certain research facilities.
An outer screen of security forces (the M25 Net) will need to be in place to cover the approaches to London in the event of emergencies on a response basis. This will need its own communication system.
Within London there will need to be high security response teams available to cover all sensitive locations, e.g. foreign embassies, on an area basis.
The surface transport networks will require added staffing beyond the needs of ordinary passenger movement and assistance. This should cover stations and trains on a comprehensive basis.
There is the security and monitoring within the Games venues, apart from the event control and management staff.
Security and monitoring at the approaches, in the immediate vicinity of the venues, and at the road and transport links.
The same two facilities at all the accommodation facilities for the athletes, the organisers, the support staff, and the VIP elements.
Also, along the transport networks for these categories and for spectators and other associated groups.
For those either taking part in the Games or who are closely involved with them on one basis or another, particular security and monitoring will need to be in place for groups or individuals who might be chosen as prime targets by any dissident or terrorist group.
How Much Does Security Cost?
It will depend how you do the costing, the assumptions you make, and what will be entailed in the deployment of large numbers of people operating on a basis of both established provision and special facilities. Inevitably, to keep the apparent costs down it is likely that this will be hidden and that will kept off the balance sheet to reduce the admitted cost. The reality will be much greater.
Assuming that the UK government, unlike in 1948, will not have the option of using forced labour in the shape of conscripted troops, and assuming that it will not seek to use cheap labour from abroad as the basis for its internal security, then who might be available from within the UK labour force? At present we do not have the numbers, the structure, the support organisation, the computer systems and the communications systems, to allow us to calculate the figures.
It is not a question of thinking of a figure of people, assuming an average wage, and then booking a figure for the month at that price, hiving off other costs as within the existing structures, or covered by some sort of “legacy”. Nor should there be any off balance sheet contrivances through shifting loans or loading onto other accounts, for example, local council finances rolled into the Games provision. Moreover for each person engaged in the security the real cost will include all the backup, support and management systems necessary to sustain a comprehensive coverage.
What does this mean?
For the personnel involved the work will begin, not days or weeks, but months in advance in terms of the deployment, training, and preparation for the Games. They will all have to know exactly what they are doing, why, how the operation is being managed, where they will be, and when they will be there. If they do not then the consequences could be chaotic with the risks attached. Mayor Boris Johnson’s vision of 10,000 volunteer policemen is inadequate and dangerously over confident. Such a group may ornament the approaches to events, and dress the photo-opportunities for the politicians and celebrities, but who will they be, where from, and now trained?
The implications for this are serious. The military will need to be withdrawn from existing duties and redeployed from the Autumn of 2011. The police forces will need to be progressively released from other duties from early in 2012. The security forces inputs and detachment from earlier tasks; necessarily will be from before that time, and increasing through 2012 until the end of the Games. Other groups and staff taken from existing services will be transferring their work again from early 2012 in increasing numbers. Even if it is assumed that many of the staff on the ground will be only temporary, a substantial proportion will need to be in place and in training rather before the Games begin. Any security forces borrowed from Europe will need time and to be made aware of British sensitivities in the handling of demonstrations and crowd situations.
There are other implications. The number available from the British military will be far smaller than the military capability for the Beijing Olympics, even if the whole of the British Armed Forces were to be deployed. For the police to approach the numbers deployed in Beijing might entail effectively the withdrawal of the police services from large areas of the United Kingdom for several months. Either there will have to be significant recruitment of extra police from this year onwards or the government will have to face other options for policing communities beyond the M25.
A back of the envelope figure for the real numbers for security of 250,000 people at a typical real head cost of £25,000 each, yields a total in the order of £7.5 billion. This does not include hardware costs, such as IT, software development, transport facilities, and kit. The figures for government and local authority IT development in recent years would suggest more billions, but this is only speculation. If a table is devised to set on the one hand the numbers to be employed against the real cost of each then the running costs for personnel and management, less hardware, could escalate well beyond £15 billion.
In short, the real total security bill may well exceed all other costs.
What is necessary now is a clear statement of the intentions of the Government and the implications for the budgets of central and local government of the security plans. With this should be clear statements concerning the impact on local and other services, not just during the month of the Games, but during the whole period when staff and others will be occupied with them as either their sole or first priority.