Safety levels for the London Olympics have not been compromised by a major security contractor’s failure to find enough staff, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Monday, less than two weeks before the Games begin.
“Of course security is paramount and important for everyone. I think there has been a good show of flexibility with the problem that arose,” IOC President Jacques Rogge told a small group of reporters in a news conference.
Last week, the British government said it would deploy an additional 3,500 troops after it became clear security firm G4S could not provide the 10,400 guards it was contracted to do because of problems processing applicants.
Safety has been at the top of the London Games organisers’ list of concerns ever since four young British Islamists killed 52 people in suicide bomb attacks across the capital the day after London was awarded the Games in July 2005.
“Extra input of soldiers is something that gives us tranquillity in the field of security,” said Rogge, adding that tight security would not affect the atmosphere.
“They will not be running around with machine guns. They will be ready to intervene. Not visible, not obtrusive and this will not spoil the fun,” the Belgian added.
“We got reassurances from the government that security would be absolutely in place. We are in the process of fixing the issue that came up. We absolutely feel secure in terms of transfer of soldiers.”
The guards fiasco, coming days before the July 27 opening ceremony, has prompted concerns over the safety of both athletes and spectators, and raised fears that those trying to get into venues would face long queues for security checks.
“The issue here has been handled well. What counts is the flexibility of the organisers and the government and they have been very flexible and very adaptive,” Rogge added.
Rogge, who will be attending his final Olympics as IOC president with his second term ending next year, was equally calm over the adverse effects of an extended spell of wet weather across much of Britain and northern Europe this summer.
“Definitely, I would prefer brilliant sunshine than rain,” the former Olympic sailor said.
“There may be some issue in Wimbledon for tennis as most matches are outdoors. That might need some rescheduling but Wimbledon has experience in that,” he added.
“It won’t affect the fundamentals. Athletes have adapted to competing in different conditions.”
As for the overall outlook for the event, Rogge said the right preparation would lead to a “very good” Games.
“I think so and hope so. I think so because there has been good preparations. The fundamentals are good. I think it will be very good Games. The spirit of the Games will wipe away all question marks.”