19 Jul 2011

British military prepares for Olympic security

9:10 am on 19 July 2011

Up to 12,000 British military personnel could be called on to provide security at the London Olympic Games in a move that would place fresh pressure on the already-stretched UK armed forces.

In addition to 5000 specialist personnel allocated to the Games by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), thousands more are likely to be needed, Britain's Financial Times newspaper reported on Monday.

The news comes at a time when budget cuts and overseas operations are already placing British forces under pressure.

"We are having to give some very serious consideration to this issue," a senior ministry figure told the Financial Times.

"We could be looking at a total deployment by the armed forces at the Games of up to 12,000 personnel. This is an important moment for Britain and we'll do it. But this would be deployment across a lengthy period - the torch relay, the Olympic Games and Paralympics - and it's a big ask."

While specialist personnel are understood to be needed for services such as bomb disposal, other defence personnel would be used to ensure the security of Olympic venues.

In March, Games organisers contracted a private firm to provide 10,000 security guards to work in and around venues operating scanners and making checks at entry points. The majority of the guards are yet to be recruited.

While the MoD is understood to already be considering what uniforms military personnel would wear at the Games, event organisers deny there has been a request for assistance.

"We are not aware of any approach by LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) to the Minister of Defence for the provision of military personnel to secure sporting venues," Olympic security coordinator Chris Allison said.

The reports come as Britain's Metropolitan Police service seeks a new chief after the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson amid the phone hacking scandal.

Some 9000 police officers are due to work in London city alone during the busiest days of the Games, as part of a huge security operation.

The next officer to fill the job as police boss steps in with just one year to go until the Games open on 27 July 2012.