The London Olympics’ security plans are coming to fruition, as Britain deploys spy planes, helicopters with snipers and the biggest warship in the Royal Navy’s fleet to protect the Games. But when surface-to-air missiles and thousands of ground troops and guards get involved, London residents are getting nervous, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.
State-of-the-art radar systems and a carpet of security cameras will provide 24-hour surveillance over the area, while up to 13,500 ground troops are backed up by more than 20,000 private guards, the article says.
All in all, more British troops are being assigned to protect the Olympics than are stationed in all of Afghanistan, the article says. Plus, surface-to-air missile batteries were set up at six sites around the city, including a park in an affluent South London neighborhood and on an apartment building rooftop close to the main Olympic stadium. The skies above Olympic Park will be restricted airspace, despite a surge in air traffic, according to the LA Times.
Last month, eight days of practice maneuvers showed the world, and the city, what lies ahead, as Royal Air Force fighter jets flew overhead and the Navy’s largest vessel docked on the Thames at Greenwich, where it will serve as a helicopter landing pad.
Security is also a main cause of the Olympic price tag. The cost of security is nearly twice what was previously planned, at a current total of $875 million and counting, according to the LA Times. This has helped to drive up the Olympic budget from under $4 billion to $15 billion, all at a time of sweeping government spending cuts in Great Britain.
The goal of the security mission is to provide reassuring, proportionate security that is intimidating to those who would do harm to the Games, but not overbearing to visitors and citizens.
However, the East End, where the Games are primarily located, is home to a large minority population that has a history of heavy-handed police tactics. Racial profiling is already a strong grievance in the neighborhood, the article says. And, in addition to the vast numbers of officers on the streets, police have been given the authority to stop and search, as well as the power to disperse any group of two or more people.
But according to Scotland Yard’s assistant commissioner Chris Allison, no troops will be on general patrol on the streets – only the “traditional unarmed British bobby” will be patrolling the general neighborhood, the LA Times reports.
The bulk of the troops are focusing on Game venues themselves. As many as 7,500 British troops will maintain security at various sporting venues, along with 20,000 private contract guards. About 5,000 soldiers will be on hand to back up the police in the event of a disaster or emergency, such as the riots last summer. Another thousand will provide logistical support, the article says.
Most authorities are echoing the statement made by Prime Minister David Cameron, who recently said, “I’m determined this will feel like a sporting event with a really serious security operation rather than a security operation with a really serious sporting event.”