The Department for Culture, Media and Sport last week announced that it now estimates 23,700 security staff will be required at Olympic and Paralympic venues next summer – more than double the original estimate of 10,000. Up to 13,500 of these will be military personnel (with some 5,000 troops supporting the police, up to 7,500 providing venue security and 1,000 will providing logistical support).
The previous week ministers revised the Games security budget from £282m to £553m. This follows close on the heels of the announcement that the London 2012 Olympic ceremonies budget has been doubled to more than £80m. The journey to host the 2012 Olympics began in 1997 when the world was in a very different place. This is a long term project of both scale and magnitude. International events over the last few years have made security a priority and to operate at anything less than full strength would be at best irresponsible.
The Games in Beijing was initially estimated to have cost over $40 billion and reportedly eventually exceed $44 billion, and at the time promised to become the most expensive Olympic event in history. Each Games the judgment of success has been significantly swayed by the opening ceremony and not necessarily by the legacy left behind or the direct income attracted. With the Beijing games attracting a reported $2 billion income, a fraction of the actual cost, the costs and expenditure of the London games becomes a hard sell. Given the current climate where more nearly a third of UK households are facing fuel poverty and UK unemployment reached 2.64 million, the highest level since 1994, more needs to be done to promote the virtues of the Games’ legacy. The major regeneration of the Stratford area, improvements to surrounding services and venues as well as to transport facilities, are not making the media headlines. Organisers and promoters need to look at this issue if they are to ensure that the UK public is fully informed of the benefits if they are to prevent criticism and debate on cost verses benefit.