UK holds 1st Olympic safety exercises since riots

London: British authorities are holding their first major planning exercise for the 2012 London Olympics since riots in the capital last month forced police to reassess their security plans for the games.

The government`s emergency committee, known as COBRA, started a three-day exercise yesterday to simulate responses to potential crises during the Olympics, detective chief superintendent Alaric Bonthron of the Metropolitan Police said.

"We are going through the whole gamut from food poisoning to terrorism through to heat waves and rail disruption," he said in an interview.

"We have to understand how we manage the games in those situations. This is the first major one since the riots."

The unrest flared in early August after an initially peaceful protest in London over the fatal shooting of a man by police turned violent.

Thousands of rioters rampaged through London and other major cities, burning and looting shops and buildings as police struggled to contain the country`s worst unrest since the 1980s.

"We are still reviewing everything post-riots to make sure we have learned the lessons," Bonthron said.

London was already preparing a massive security operation for the Olympics, but most of the attention had been on the threat of international terrorism until the outbreak of spontaneous unrest, which led to thousands of arrests.

"We recognise we didn`t always get it right during the rioting," Bonthron said at an Olympics planning conference.

"We are reassessing plans in light of what happened during the riots to make sure the resources we have ... match the risk."

About 12,000 police officers will be on duty each day of the July 27-August 12 games, which have a security budget of 475 million pounds (USD 732 million).

The latest in a series of security exercises, which ends on Friday, allows the police, government and games organizers to test how their infrastructure could cope with an emergency during the Olympics.

"It`s a simulation where people go through and exercise and test communications, test what sort of responses we need, what sort of information flows we would need ... to make sure everyone understand their games-time roles," Bonthron said.


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