Olympics: 2 000 more troops on standby

2012-07-18 17:00

London - Britain has drawn up contingency plans to deploy another 2 000 troops for the London Olympics after a private security firm said it could not provide enough guards, a minister said on Wednesday.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said that the government would ensure security giant G4S would foot the bill for any further use of service personnel to guard the Games, which start on July 27.

The government announced last week that it was deploying another 3 500 troops after G4S said it could not fulfil its contract to supply 10 500 private security guards for Olympic venues.

"Contingency plans are being drawn up for 2 000 more soldiers," Robertson told a press conference in central London.

"We are clear we are not going to spend a penny more of taxpayers' money on security. We are working now to activate the penalty clauses" in the contract with G4S.

"Not a penny of the remaining contingency fund will be used to make up for the mistakes of the last few days or to plug the gap left by G4S's mistakes," he added, referring to the government's 476-million ($744-million, 606-million-euro) contingency fund in the overall 9.3 billion Olympics budget.

Robertson refused however to call for the resignation of G4S's embattled boss Nick Buckles, saying that "what is crucial now is that he and his organisation deliver a safe Olympics".

No guarantee

"What happens to Mr Buckles is a matter for others in a post-Games environment," the minister added.

The announcement that a further 2 000 troops have been placed on standby comes a day after Buckles said during a grilling by lawmakers that he could not now guarantee the number of guards that G4S could provide.

Buckles said on Tuesday that G4S currently had 4 200 people working and that the "minimum we can deliver" by the start of the Games was 7 000.

But when asked whether he could guarantee they would all turn up he said "I can't, no".

Britain currently has 17 000 military personnel lined up for security at the Games - almost double the number of troops that it has in Afghanistan.

Reports said a decision would be taken on Thursday on whether to put 2 000 service personnel "on notice to move", meaning they would act as a reserve force throughout the Olympics and would not be available for other tasks.