Olympic Athletes Begin Arriving in London

Members of the Italian Olympic squad arrive at Heathrow airport, London, England, July 16, 2012.Members of the Italian Olympic squad arrive at Heathrow airport, London, England, July 16, 2012.
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Members of the Italian Olympic squad arrive at Heathrow airport, London, England, July 16, 2012.
Members of the Italian Olympic squad arrive at Heathrow airport, London, England, July 16, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
LONDON — Thousands of athletes began arriving in London Monday ahead of the Olympic Games. But security problems continue to be an issue.

A sailing squad from the United States touched down in London Monday morning, among the early arrivals ahead of the Olympic Games.

Dean Brenner, the team’s leader, spoke to journalists at the airport. He said, “We’re feeling great, it’s great to be in London. You know, obviously, we’ve been working for a while for this and now it’s time for the big test.”

Around 350 athletes are due to fly into Heathrow Monday. In total, the airport is set to handle almost 240,000 passengers, 50,000 more than on an average day, and a sign of what lies ahead for the coming weeks.

From the airport in southwest London, athletes were heading to the Olympic Village in Stratford, northeast London. A special “Games Lane” has been created to help the athletes beat London’s notoriously slow traffic.

The players’ arrival comes as a debacle over Olympic security dominates Britain’s news agenda.  Last week it emerged that the private security firm hired to handle the games had failed to recruit and train enough guards. As a result, 3,500 army troops have been brought in to fill the gaps.

Shares in the security firm G4S fell sharply Monday and British politicians were having to answer questions about why the right provisions had not been put in place.

Security Consultant David Rubens said there are two main challenges in securing the games.

“One is purely to provide the right people, in the right place, at the right time, who have been trained and are ready to look after the millions of people who are coming into London,” said Rubens.

The second challenge, he said, is coordinating the thousands of people responsible for ensuring the games run smoothly.

“There is I think 20,000 volunteers, 16,000 military people, 10,000 private security guards. All of these people have to be integrated into a unified command and that certainly is going to be a challenge.”

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said Monday that safety at the London Olympics has not been compromised by the security guard shortage.
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