During the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, Britain’s security will be under very close surveillance, scrutinised for any slip ups that could compromise safety.

The Olympic Mascots reflect the exceptionally high standard of security at the Games.  Wenlock and Mandeville have been designed with a large single eye made of a CCTV camera lens.  Forbes magazine criticised the design for incorporating surveillance into the mascots, commenting “it’s amazing how blatant the symbolism is here.”

But security remains at the very heart of the Olympic Games, secondary only to the celebration of extraordinary sporting achievements.  From the day the mascots were unveiled, 19th May 2010, the Olympic Committee had set a tone of ‘absolute security’.

To find out how the Games are putting this into practice, we attended a seminar at IFSEC International by David Evans, Project Director 2012 at the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).

“The Olympic Games is by far the biggest event in the world.  There are more football matches played in the Olympic Games than there are in the World Cup,” David begins.  And we shouldn’t forget the Paralympic Games – although they’re half the size of the Olympics, they’re still the second largest event in the world.

“These are the first Games of the modern games to actually be held within a city.  Sydney, Athens and Beijing were actually based outside of the cities, so this is a massive undertaking”.

Risk Assessment

Every security risk to the Olympic Games has been assessed and mitigation plans put in place.  David describes the “most testing risk of all” is terrorist activity, both from domestic and foreign terrorism.  “We’re relying on intelligence very much to disrupt that activity, but it remains the biggest single threat.”

Other risks include criminal activity such as serious organised crime, pickpockets and ticket fraud.  Crowd management has also been assessed.  “If you look at the routes into the Olympic Park routes, the majority of people will enter through the Westfield shopping centre and this will have to be carefully managed to ensure the safe and continuous movement of crowds in a restricted space.”

Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications

The CSSC organisation aims to deliver timely and authoritative security messages to businesses in London and the rest of the UK, during times of potential danger in the Olympics.  David commented “People are concerned about safety and security, especially the safety of their staff.  They want swift authoritative guidance from Government, with no conflicting messages and the CSSC’s aim is to get that single message out quickly.”

The organisation is made up of volunteers from the following areas:

  • Metropolitan Police
  • Olympic Security Directorate
  • Greater London Authority
  • National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO)
  • London First
  • Representatives from major London based companies
  • BSIA and other industry associations

The focus of the CSSC is to send out this one single message, using a range of methods such as text, email, Twitter and websites such as Neighbourhood Watch.  David comments “One of the advantages of the security industry is that we’re a 24/7 industry.  We have control rooms co-ordinated so they can get the message out to their customers and their staff over the whole period, day and night.”

Secured by Design

David makes a pragmatic comment that “from a security point of view, you wouldn’t actually have sited the Olympic Park in as difficult a place.”  With waterways, railways and sewage systems running through the park, a huge amount of work has to go into the planning of venues and infrastructure to ensure the safety of participants.

“Security was in the plans from the very start.  As soon as the UK was awarded the Games, the Metropolitan Police put in a team of designers to help and ensure that the Olympics was secured by design.  An example of this is a 17km security fence, complete with surveillance systems, running the whole way round the Park, which is an enormous investment but it does make it an ‘island’ site.”

David gives us an example of how securing by design has also incorporated cost-saving measures.  “If you’re looking at bomb blast mitigation, bringing that sort of mitigation in after the build would cost about £100m.  Building it in right from the start, has achieved it for £15m.”

Bridging the Gap

Typically, manpower delivery for major international events on this scale only manages to deliver about 40% of the required security staff.  David explains how the manpower initiative ‘Bridging the Gap’ will leave a lasting legacy for the internal security market by training and employing students already in Further Education.

“We’ve taken 9,500 full time students from 92 colleges and put them through the SIA Door Supervisor qualification.  This is a major achievement as this is not a qualification that’s in the education system.  We’ve also taken 9,000 young people through an Understanding Stewarding qualification, and that’s had a fantastic impact on the availability of trained stewards throughout the UK.”

Operation Sentaur

This new operation is linking the private security sector directly with the Metropolitan Police and will look at the ways in which the private sector can work more closely with the police in the future – a real legacy of the Games.

David commented that there’s great enthusiasm for the operation: “Excellent relationships have been developed with the Police during the planning for the Games and both the Police and industry want to build on those relationships to ensure that we are working together for the good of the public and industry”

Future of the industry

At the conference, we asked David what kind of long term effect the Olympics will have on the security industry.  He views the Olympic Games as a ‘catalyst for change.’  “Britain currently has 18-20% of the world’s market in Defence products and systems, but only 4-6% of security products.  We’re hoping our Olympic experience can be used to will increase that market share.”

The BSIA are working with UK Trade and Investment to bring the exceptional benefit of ‘secured by design’ planning to other potential markets.  “One of the things that we have encouraged is the capture of everything that’s been done.  We’re going to use our Olympics planning as a method of promoting UK expertise.”

“I think that the word ‘security’ will not be sufficient anymore.  It’s about risk assessment and risk mitigation.  You don’t want any threats to you that are a high probability with high impact.  The Olympics have taken risk assessment/mitigation to heart and this experience will transfer and increase the professionalism within our industry.”