17,000 troops to be deployed for securing London Olympics
London: Nearly 17,000 British troops will be deployed for the upcoming Olympics to back up a grand security arrangement that includes surface-to-air missiles on rooftops amidst concerns of an al-Qaeda threat.
In a last minute manoeuvre, "the military has been asked to provide up to 3,500 extra troops to guard the London Olympics, amid concerns that private security firm G4S will be unable to deliver the number of staff it promised", The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
It said ministers have been forced into the "last-ditch move" only a fortnight before the Games because they are concerned that the private firm cannot guarantee it will be able to supply the 13,700 guards it was contracted to deliver.
"The army will provide an insurance policy," an unnamed source was quoted as saying by the daily.
The armed forces are already providing up to 13,500 personnel for the Games`split between the venues and back-up for police. Under the contingency plans, this could reach 16,500- 7,000 more than are being deployed in Afghanistan, it said.
Home Secretary Theresa May informed lawmakers in an urgent statement that private contractor G4S could not supply all the security staff it had promised due to recruitment and training problems but insisted there was nothing to worry about.
"Let me reiterate that there is no question of Olympic security being compromised," the interior minister told lawmakers.
She said the government had built in contingency plans but "concerns have arisen about the ability of G4S to deliver the required number of guards".
"We have now agreed it would be prudent to deploy additional military support to provide greater reassurance," she said, adding that she was confident the government would be able to stick to its security budget for the Games, which stands at 553 million pounds or USD 877 million.
Among the other security arrangements, the navy`s biggest warship, HMS Ocean, will be stationed in the Thames and four Typhoon fighter jets will be on standby at RAF Northolt in Middlesex. Armed Puma helicopters will also be on standby.
G4S said it had 4,000 staff in venues and more than 20,000 in training. A spokesman for G4S said that issues over "scheduling and deployment" were being dealt with.
"Our programme to train and deploy our security workforce for the 2012 Games is continuing and has stepped up in the past few weeks," said the spokesman.
"Issues we have faced over scheduling and deployment are being worked out and we are continuing to work hard to get a robust workforce in place for the start of the Games," he was quoted as saying by the daily.