July 24, 2012
The London Olympics are fast taking on the appearance and tone of a full-scale land, sea and air military operation rather than an international sporting event.
With surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment blocks, Royal Navy battleships on alert and Royal Air Force fighter jets and helicopters patrolling the skies over Britain’s capital there is a foreboding sense of a nation at war instead of an occasion of internationalist fraternity that the ancient Games are supposed to embody.
The Games begin in just under two weeks. The latest development is the announcement by Britain’s Ministry of Defence that 3,500 extra troops are to be deployed to ensure security at the 30 venues hosting sporting events. This is in addition to the 13,500 military personnel already assigned to protect members of the public and sports teams from the risk of terrorist attack.
British General Sir Nick Parker, overseeing the security arrangements, has said that one of the contingencies being planned for is dealing with a “9/11 type event”.
The total troop deployment in and around London represents 7,000 more personnel than is currently on British operations in Afghanistan.
This figure is in addition to the 10,000 extra police officers and a division of 10,000 private security guards. It was the disclosure that G45, the private security firm with the Olympics contract, could not fulfill its manpower requirements to cover the Games that prompted the latest enlisting of additional soldiers.
The militarization of the Olympics was conveyed inadvertently by a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence when he said: “Many of the people whom the public will meet at the point of entry to any Olympic event will now be a serving member of the armed forces.”
Boris Johnson, the maverick Mayor of London, said in a statement: “The mayor takes the issue of Olympics security extremely seriously, and having the finest and bravest service men and woman in the world at our disposal during the Games should be a source of great comfort.”