After Security Concerns, No Serious Breaches at Olympics

Al Pessin
LONDON — In the months and years leading up to the London Olympics, there were some serious concerns about security.  Security, in fact, was a core element of the preparations over a period of seven years. But the Games have been going on for more than two weeks - hundreds of events and millions of spectators in dozens of locations - so far with no serious incidents. 

Some days at the Olympic Park there were so many people it was difficult to move around.  That, and the many other venues around London and throughout Britain, might have been an attractive target for terrorists.  

To prepare, organizers and the British government deployed a vast security system, with airport-style screening at all venues and a large police presence.  The British military was on standby to respond to any terrorist attack.  Officials said they had “no appetite for risk” but also did not want to create a “siege” atmosphere.

Still, when the security firm G4S failed to recruit enough civilian guards, officials called on the British Army to provide thousands of extra troops on short notice to help with routine screening and guard duties.  The head of the organizing committee visited some of the soldiers at a temporary camp near the Olympic Park.

“They brought, of course, supreme organizational skills," said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympics Organizing Committee. "They brought their professionalism, they brought their humor, and they've done it with grace. And they've charmed a large, a large proportion, of the Olympic family."

Just before the Olympics started, security consultant David Rubens described the organizers as “not ready.”  Now, he says the planning and execution of all aspects of the Games will serve as a model for future Olympics.

“To a certain extent they got lucky, but being lucky is part of the game and it’s a function of good planning.  Everything except for G4 is actually a major success,” said security consultant David Rubens.

The most significant security incidents of the games, so far, involved a man who threw a beer bottle onto the Olympic track just before the 100 meter final, and an Indian woman who somehow marched with her country’s team in the opening ceremony.  She even got a certificate of participation.

As the 2012 Games drew to a close, several senior officials gathered at a memorial ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.  This year’s organizers were determined to avoid anything like a repeat of that, and in spite of, or perhaps because of, major concerns in the run-up to the Games, with two days to go they appear to have succeeded.
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