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Securing the Olympics

Nick Fox, CTO, 3DX-RAY, discusses the huge security operation required for the London Olympics and how innovative security equipment can be deployed to strengthen the security around transport networks during the games.

Security is undoubtedly one of the key concerns for those planning the London Olympics in 2012. While preparations are well underway, with the Metropolitan Police committing £600 million to the security operations, the challenge for security providers is to provide implement adequate measures to cater for the extremely large numbers of people attending the event. In excess of 9 million visitors are expected in London during the games, as well asin addition to the 15,000 competitors and 20,000 media. With these numbers of people moving in and around London during the Olympics, the event represents a unique challenge to security providers throughout the infrastructure chain – not just at the venues themselves.

One of the crucial issues is that this huge number of people will be in London and moving around the city very quickly: the ‘Javelin’ trains alone will be moving 25,000 people every hour; 120,000 people will travel through Stratford regional station every morning; one train approximately every 15 seconds will serve the Olympic park, carrying up to 240,000 people per hour by rail. Moreover, travel resulting from the Olympics will not just be concentrated locally in the area around the main stadium. Instead these people will be moving across the whole of London, coming to London from elsewhere in the UK and also entering London internationally – either by air or rail. To complicate matters even further, as the organisers themselves have acknowledged, the security operation for the Olympics must be undertaken with minimal disruption to everyday life in London,. as the organisers themselves have acknowledged Clearly the security provisions for the Olympic games present a number of significant challenges for the authorities.

One of the primary challenges for security providers is that, due to the fact that spectators and other people involved in the games will be coming to the games from a huge number of places and will, useing a wide variety of modes of traveldifferent means to attend the various activities. , Whilst the stadium itself, and Olympic park, and the associated local foot traffic, does not represents the main ‘hub’ focus’ of the event, the security strategy must also consider . Instead there are athe whole series of major transport hubsjunctions radiating feeding out from the stadium and the other key venuesthat are which will also be potential targets for disruption and therefore need to part of the security strategy. These junctions start atinclude Stratford Regional & International station and St Pancras rail stations, and radiate out through the rest of the tube, bus and train networks in London and out the international airports ofto Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Luton and Stanstead. Ideally security checks will be positioned at key points throughout the whole of this transport network.

Obviously managing this network, from a security point of view, will involve a significant operation. Not only will it involve a lot of operatives, but clearly the equipment at their disposal will also be crucial in maintaining an effective security level. Unfortunately, the only location where the police and security staff can legitimately and logistically introduce full ‘airport style’ security checks is at the Olympic park itself. Locations like train rail stations do not lend themselves to these kinds of checks. Generally speaking train rail stations are open environment and havewith no equivalent of quarantined ‘air side’, as found there is in airports or proposed for at the stadium. As a result there is no natural barrier at which to perform security checks throughout most of the transport infrastructure. Moreover, unlike at airports, rail passengers do not expect to have to turn up at a station hours in advance in order to catch a train.

Clearly the simple conclusion is that it will not be possible to maintain 100% inspection of spectators and baggage across the whole of London and the transport network, in particularly if we are to maintain ‘business as usual’ for the normal population of London. Instead random inspection will need to be implemented in many of the key transport junctions and hubs. However, this must be applied with a high degree of intelligence. In some cases the mere presence of x-ray scanning equipment and security operators can act as a deterrent, but this is not always true – even a temporary x-ray scanning installation can quickly become ‘part of the furniture’.

Moreover, as the police and other security agencies will be required to cover such a broad area, what is really required is a series of truly portable security equipment. If the equipment can be manoeuvred easily around the transport network across London, temporarily installing significant deterrents in a wide range of locations can send a clear message – ‘nowhere is exempt from detection’. The police, using their stop and search powers, supported by this portable equipment can form an effective security presence during the Olympics.

Of course, it is vitally important to remember that while the context, location and deployment may differ wildly, the security deployments throughout the infrastructure around the Olympics, including the x-ray scanners and other equipment, should not deliver anything except the highest quality. Indeed, 3DX-RAY has been working on providing just this sort of high quality, innovative equipment for many years, and already supplies some of these products to the British Transport Police and other key agencies across the world.

A large event like the Olympics, lasting for such an extended period of time, has rarely happened in London before. It represents a unique challenge for the police and other security services. What must be avoided is allowing the security operation to fall into easy patterns and routines. Instead, in order to achieve the goal of a successful and safe Olympics the security services will need to plan an intelligent, flexible scheme in order to be effective. Deploying the best technology and equipment alongside their operatives can form a key part of that scheme.