POLICE IN LONDON managed to smuggle a fake bomb into Olympic Park in a security test, overshadowing a special Cabinet meeting held at the Olympic handball arena today marking 200 days until the Summer Games begin.
The fake explosive device was snuck into the park – which houses six of the games’ main venues – in the east of London during a security trial over the weekend.
The Olympic Delivery Authority declined to comment directly on whether a fake bomb was involved in last year’s failed test, but said “testing is standard practice” in all major security operations.
“Such tests have a key role in developing our capability to ensure that London 2012 is safe and secure and that we are best prepared to detect potential threats before and during the Games,” it said in a statement.
“Members of the public with tickets should be reassured that such exercises are being staged to ensure their safety, our number one priority.”
Olympic security experts downplayed the significance of the test, arguing that such tests are routine and conducted by experts trained at exposing vulnerabilities.
Peter Fussey, author of ‘Securing and Sustaining the Olympic City’, which looks at the London 2012 games, said the only thing that was unusual about the most recent security scare was that the public heard about it.
“You can’t make something completely terrorist-proof,” he said. “There’s always going to be some risk.”
Margaret Gilmore, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said with six months to go, a successful dummy device is not the problem one might think it to be. The whole point of such tests is to expose vulnerabilities, she said.
“The key thing is that they are putting this real ring of steel around the Olympic sites,” she said.
The terror threat is the biggest security worry for the London Olympics, which run from July 27 to August 12.
Security has been an intricate part of the games since an attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. London itself has not been immune from terror attacks — four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in 2005 when they targeted the city’s transit network.
But creating enough security to satisfy the experts has proven to be costly — and more complicated than initially envisioned.
Authorities vastly underestimated the number of people needed to search spectators and otherwise secure venues and other Olympic sites, like hotels and power stations.
Britain will have up to 13,500 troops deployed on land, at sea and in the skies to help protect the games — twice as many as had been envisioned. That’s not including the 10,000 security guards and about 12,000 police officers also working to secure the event.
But the threat goes beyond the event itself. Transport sites, shopping malls and other public gathering points, such as where people will watch the games on big-screen televisions, are also being scrutinised.
Britain’s government has said it expects the terror threat level to be set at “severe” during the Olympics, meaning an attempted attack is considered highly likely.
The terror concerns, and more ticketing problems, surfaced as Britain’s Cabinet gathered at the Olympic Park to mark the ’200 days to go’ milestone. As part of the festivities, the Olympic Delivery Authority formally handed over control of the park to games organisers.
“This is the perfect time for the Cabinet to come together and ensure we are doing absolutely everything we can to make the most of this unique opportunity to showcase all the great things the UK has to offer to the rest of the world,” prime minister David Cameron said.
Meanwhile, organisers grappled with yet another ticketing problem: a limited ticket sale has been suspended indefinitely after computer problems kept causing trouble for buyers.
Olympic authorities also announced they had signed contracts specifying the post-Olympics use of six of eight of the permanent venues, including those used for swimming and handball as well as the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower.
- Danica Kirka
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