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British Army brought in to fill Olympic security gap

Mayor of London Boris Johnson goes through a security procedure as he visits the Olympic Athletes Village in London, on July 12, 2012.

Jeff Horwich: The British government says it will have to deploy an extra 3,500 soldiers to protect the Olympic Games. That's after a private security contractor abruptly said it would fall short.

The news has plenty of people questioning whether London is really ready. Marketplace's Stephen Beard is with me from London with more. Hello, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello, Jeff.

Horwich: There are two weeks to go here, right? What the heck happened?

Beard: Well, the private company that won the contract to provide security for the Games has simply said we cannot recruit enough trained staff in time. That's it. It said that the demands of the event are unprecedented. As you say, within two weeks of the Games, this is a terrific blow. It means the army is going to have to deploy another 3,500 soldiers -- some of them just back from Afghanistan -- bringing the total number of military personnel deployed at the Olympics here in London to 20,000, about 10 percent of Britain's entire armed forces. So the British Army is not happy about this at all.

Horwich: Well, lots of people are just focused on the sporting aspect of the Olympics, of course, but what is the threat level hanging over this Olympics and are they ready to meet it in London?

Beard: Well, they are spending about $1.5 million to meet that threat level, so they are certainly taking it seriously. It's described as substantial. Now this morning the British government official responsible for security, Theresa May, said that security will not be compromised by this problem.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander with the British Army, told the BBC this morning he doesn't believe that this shortfall by the security firm will compromise security.

Richard Kemp: A great deal of very effective planning has been going on by some extremely professional people, and I don't think that we need to have great concern. But this is really very bizarre, quite how it's come about I just don't know.

Beard: It is extremely embarrassing, a humiliation for Britain's private sector, failing to rise to the challenge. And particularly, staging the Olympics is supposed to be a showcase for Britain, but at the moment it's not a very flattering picture.

Horwich: Stephen Beard in the thick of Olympic planning in London, thanks very much.

Beard: Ok, Jeff.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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