After hearing several questions being thrown about in the press recently regarding disruption caused by an anti-elitism protester during the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, I was wondering whether we are prepared for any eventualities of a similar nature during the London Olympics.
The main questions are:
Does Britain have the correct strategies in place to prevent an attack?
Does British government have the resources available to contain such an event?
Recent reports show security training teams acting out potential scenarios in preparation for a potential terrorist plot. In January, a security operation was conducted by professionals on the River Thames, aiming to reinforce strategies to control terrorism. But by doing this, does it give potential terrorists more ideas, or simply help terrorists eliminate plans through watching how and what government agencies are training for?
Within the last month we have seen security operations on the ground, too. Emergency services flocked to Aldwych Station to deal with ‘casualties’ in a mock attack on the transport network. Security Minister, James Brokenshire said, “It's ensuring that we're testing, that we're really stretching our preparations as much as possible so when it comes to Games time, we're as ready as we can be.”
The current threat level from international terrorism, as stated on the Home Office website, is ‘substantial’, which suggests an attack is strongly possible. The Home Office admits, “Your risk of being caught in a terrorist attack is very low.” However, that’s hard to believe in a year where London hosts the Olympics and the Queen celebrates her 60th year on the thrown with a Diamond Jubilee. To be honest, the risk hasn’t been greater!
The first strategy in place by the government to prevent a catastrophic event is a service targeted at online users to raise alarm of any suspicious internet content. “The Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 made it illegal to: have or share information that could be useful to terrorists, share information that urges people to commit or help with acts of terrorism and /or glorify or praise terrorism.”
Our government has a counter-terrorism strategy, abbreviated to CONTEST, which aims to protect British citizens. It’s based on four key principles; Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks, Prevent: to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, Protect: to strengthen our protection against terrorist attacks, Prepare: where an attack cannot be stopped, to mitigate its impact.
Torch-bearers are also at risk in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, due to a growing number of protesters threatening to boycott certain parts of the Olympic course. An Olympic Torch protection team has been implemented to follow the torch and ensure the relay “passes off peacefully.” Local security agencies and police forces’ relationship will be tested when it results in important decision-making.
The government also want to “improve on resilience of communities against crime and the threat from violent extremism.” This could prove difficult to achieve as communities are involved to such a great extent with preparations to the London Games.
The government seems prepared and ready for many different eventualities and the staff/equipment is constructed to alleviate the possibility and after-effects of an attack. But it depends on how these different strategies co-ordinate in times of crisis and despair which essentially tests government strategies’ effectiveness in responding to real situations (compared to mock ones).