However any political party tries to spin the story, the security arrangements appear a fiasco – but the three important questions are
how bad is it?
how can it be fixed?
why did it happen?
The problems that have affected the London 2012 Olympics go back to the dying days of the Blair Brown Regime. Winning the Olympics was a priority project for the Blair Brown Regime natioanl socialists because it was hoped that the event would help win votes which is a legitimate objective because the games are now primarily about commercial advantage and political messages, a far cry from the objectives of the founders of the modern Olympics. However it is nothing new because the German national socialists approached the Berlin 1936 Olympics in a very similar manner to the Blair Brown Regime for very similar motives.
There will always be debate about the merits and evil of the war criminals who ran the Labour Party during the Blair Brown Regime but, policies aside, what marked the Regime out was its staggering level of incompetence. There will be those who will argue that Britain under the Blair Brown Regime excluded itself from staging an Olympics because the domestic policy of apartheid and the numerous war crimes ran against the declared ethical standards of the Olympics. Others will list all of the obscenely expenses projects that failed to deliver because of institutional incompetence. In fact the French, in true EU solidarity, spent much time trying to highlight the multitude of British Government failings of the time in the hope of winning the Olympics event for Paris.
The only action that the Blair Brown Regime proved consistent in was taking Britain towards bankruptcy. Vast sums were spent in an attempt to socially re-engineer Britain in the national socialist pattern and buy votes. That money came by spending everything in the economic good times and borrowing heavily, producing a visible debt mountain of truly awesome proportions and an equally awesome invisible debt mountain of bloated Private Finance Initiative mortgages.
That however is an argument weakened by the continuing scandals relating to the Olympics committee that demonstrate how the whole Olympic program has been corrupted by politicians and businessmen.
It is also an argument that is outdated by the fact that the London 2012 Olympics are about to open, providing a competitive stage for all of the athletes who have worked so hard and so long to prepare for an event that for many will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Whatever the history leading up to the event, now is a time to celebrate the ethical aspirations of the Olympics and honour the participants who have given part of their lives to presenting themselves and their countries in a great competitive event.
The good news is that much of the facilities required have been opened on time or ahead of schedule and the work carried out since the change of government has avoided some of the massive overspends that were building in the final days of the Blair Brown Regime, when the Labour politicians threw money they no longer had at any and every problem in the hope of buying enough votes to hang on to power.
There are some areas that have continued to face problems.
Trade Unions have taken the opportunity to force very generous bonus payments for Underground Train and Bus crews for just doing their jobs. Some of their leaders were quite open in saying that they would destroy the London 2012 Olympics unless all their demands were met. They will undoubtedly later seek to force salary increases to compensate for loss of bonus payments after the Olympics, at a time when most workers are still seeing pay freezes or pay cuts and an increasing number will lose their jobs.
The road and rail infrastructure was always going to present challenges because of the massive anticipated extra journeys within Greater London. The ZIL lanes for the privileged Olympic bureaucrats and other politicians may be very un-British, but there was little choice and originally they fitted entirely with the Blair Brown Regime expectations of entitlement by a privileged national socialist ruling elite. The efforts to bias the existing infrastructure to the Olympics will provide a reasonably smooth transport system with any inconvenience passed to those not related to the Olympics, which may be a small price for the promised benefits of staging an Olympic event. The early orchestrated hysteria whipped up by the Labour Party and Trade Unions claiming that Public Sector job cuts would lead to 8 hour queues at airports, has not been supported by evidence from the first weekend of Olympic activity as athletes and support teams arrive in preparation. Of those visitors interviewed by the media, there were only plaudits for the speedy processing of arrivals and the lack of slow queues that many of them were expecting, having seen the Labour and Trade Union scares reported by the media.
There have been complaints about the restrictive effects of Olympic monopolies. This is not a British problem but a consequence of the way that the international Olympic management has exploited sponsors and is part of the numerous scandals that have surrounded the international Olympic organization.
That leaves the security fiasco as one potential major problem, but the initial attempts by the Labour Party and the Trade Unions to exploit the challenges is some way from the reality and risks causing fear and confusion for crude party political advantage. Visitors may be surprized by Labour’s behaviour, but should remember that a Political Party that was thrashed by the voters at the last General Election has no policies to put forward, reducing it to a campaign of smears and the promotion of fear as its best chance of unsettling the electorate and scraping back into power at the next General Election.
The early Olympic contracts and structure was set by the last Labour Government, and Labour therefore has a lot to answer for. Claiming the current Government’s difficulties as a failure to correct all Labour incompetence is hardly a convincing line of attack. There is also no current reason to suspect that the security difficulties will not be successfully addressed. G4S was contracted at an early stage to provide civil security personnel to deliver much of the visible Olympic security. In the event, they appear to have spectacularly failed to honour the terms of their contract and have suffered severely on the stock markets. In the longer term, their business may suffer for a long time from loss of customer confidence and it will cost the company much to restore their credibility as a major civil security company. However, much of the blame can go directly to the previous Labour Government who sought to use G4S and other companies, such as SERCO, to take over large and very sensitive areas of public service, hiding much of the cost in PFI contracts. The award of the Olympic security contract is just another contract from that environment where inadequate oversight was undertaken and where a culture of expectation sprang up. It is a demonstration that privatization in itself does not solve the problems of public sector bureaucracy. What happened in Britain was that commercial organizations adapted to match the expectations of Civil Servants, Quangocrats and politicians. In very short time they replicated the incompetence that comes from lack of clear consistent management and scrutiny. In effect, parts of the PFI commercial providers became incompetent public servants who just charged a lot more for the provided service. They also became convenient scapegoats. When a G4S team are escorting a dangerous prisoner to court, or between prisons, and that prisoner escapes or dies, they receive all the blame even though in a number of cases, the primary blame lays with public servants. With the Olympics, the same process appears to be in play.
The most important task right now is not to apportion blame, try to recover money from commercial contractors, or attempt to score dubious political points. Now is a time to make sure that any failings are corrected quickly and effectively.
G4S has been making significant efforts to speed recruitment and training of security guards and they face particular difficulties that should have been foreseen by Labour politicians. The first challenge is that there is a long run up to an Olympics. Four years ago, most people did not expect a deep and durable economic recession, although the politicians should have done because many (including BSD) warned of risks as much as 8 years ago. At that initial point, it was very difficult to be certain what the economic position would be or what the job market might be. In fact policians could have taken effective early action 4 years ago to avoid a major global recession. G4S, or any other provider, could not recruit thousands of new employs years ahead of the start date. Once recruitment began, there was no way of knowing how many vacancies would be matched by potentially suitable individuals who would be able to meet all the specifications for the jobs and be able to absorb the training. As new single event recruits required included trainers, there was always potential for difficulties in training recruits and that was all related to the original contract negotiated under the then Labour Government. The information is not yet available, but it will be interesting to see how many people were recruited by G4S but then failed to turn up for work when training began in earnest. It is possible that some early recruits then found other jobs which they were reluctant to leave, given the general uncertainty in national economics and employment.
For whatever faults it may have, the Coalition Government has responded with what seems like a credible plan to solve the shortages of security personnel. It is not ideal in every respect but these disadvantages are not part of security delivery, only the consequences that affect those police officers and military personnel who will have to place their own plans on hold to step forward and solve the problems.
What could have avoided the current difficulties would have been to plan four years ago for all security to be provided by police and military personnel, and then scale back that manpower when it was known how much could be passed to commercial security providers. As that would have been a progressive process the police and troops who were ultimately not required would have had reasonable notice of a different posting. It would also have removed uncertainty from the security provision.
What is not clear is how much of the G4S provision was really genuine security work, or how much would be directly visible. From some comments circulating currently, it appears that many security jobs were little different from ticket inspection at any public audience event. Some resources will also not be visible to the public because they relate to work that goes on in offices and control rooms which may contribute to the overall security provision but which can be undertaken with entirely different training.
What has happened is that the police and military component of the security provision has significantly increased very quickly. However, the personnel are already highly trained security forces. They are fully equipped and they exist. Therefore the only area that does require some attention is how these people will be compensated for any loses they will suffer as a result of a sudden change of duty. It will involve public money, at least initially. That may be reduced by claiming back payments to G4S or it might be addressed by G4S volunteering to become directly involved in compensating those who are now about to fulfill requirements that G4S was contracted to provide.
Today there is every indication that the Olympics will run smoothly and that any security deficiencies will be addressed and corrected. In the longer term there may be cause for analysis and there may be justification for sanctions or compensation claims but that is something best attended to without emotion, and in full fairness, after the Olympics has successfully concluded in London.
We wish all participants a great event and a rewarding experience. We also wish those following the games an exciting and pleasurable event.