30th March 2010

Bill Muskin

The 2012 Olympic Games will create an unprecedented demand for security services. This situation is compounded by the current high level of threat of terrorist activity, something that is unlikely to change between now and the start of the games.
This is, without doubt, the biggest security challenge that the government, the police and the private security industry have ever had to address. The good news, however, is that there are already many working parties and initiatives in place to ensure that the event will be successful and a credit to the United Kingdom.

It’s instructive to look at the scale of the security challenge. Taken together, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will spread over 77 days. As well as the Olympic Village in London, there will be 29 other sporting venues around the UK. There will be 14,000 athletes and 6,000 coaches, all of whom will require accommodation and training facilities. In addition there will be 24,000 media personnel. Ticket sales are expected to exceed nine million.

Every aspect of the games will need comprehensive security provisions. The more obvious of these include CCTV, access control, security personnel on the ground and close protection officers. There will, however, also be less obvious requirements, such as the staff that will be needed to restrict or re-direct traffic flow around the venues.

Overall, it is estimated that 13,000 private security staff will be needed – and this doesn’t include security requirements associated with the corporate hospitality and other functions that will run alongside the main programme of events. It’s also important to remember that normal life will go on during the games, so the police and private sector will still be called upon to provide security for events unconnected with the Olympics.

So how will the security industry cope? The BSIA (British Security Industry Association) is already involved with an initiative called Bridging the Gap, which entails recruiting 6,000 students to become security staff for the games. The students will be trained to a high level and, after completion of their training and their attachment to a BSIA accredited company, they will be licensed by the SIA.

In addition, many security companies are planning the resources they will need should they become involved with the games. In this respect, the sooner the security specifications for the games are drawn up and published, the sooner the industry will be able to provide a collective agreement – no single company will be able to satisfy the overall requirement.

Suppliers of contract security services should also be prioritising the needs of their existing customers who have been loyal to them, and who will be there long after the games are over. It will, for example, be important to discuss with every customer how they are likely to be affected by the games and whether they will need additional security provisions.

For example, retailers and other businesses near the venues will experience increased levels of activity, and it’s important to remember that it is not only terrorists that will be attracted to the games – criminal gangs will also be looking to capitalise on the magnitude of the event and the vulnerability of tourists.

Of course, you may be asking why I’m talking about the Olympic Games now, when they don’t take place until 2012? The answer is simple. Security planning started as soon as it was announced that the games were coming to the UK and the sooner we all understand our own roles – even as individuals – the sooner we will be able to ensure that the measures we put in place are efficient and effective.

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