London Olympics venue security cost doubles

LONDON Mon Dec 5, 2011 8:48am EST

USA's Race Imboden (L) and USA's Gerek Meinhardt compete during the semi-finals of the Men's Individual Foil Fencing competition for an LOCOG Olympic test event at the Excel centre in London on November 26, 2011 REUTERS/Olivia Harris

USA's Race Imboden (L) and USA's Gerek Meinhardt compete during the semi-finals of the Men's Individual Foil Fencing competition for an LOCOG Olympic test event at the Excel centre in London on November 26, 2011

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has doubled its budget for security at venues for next summer's Olympic games after underestimating the number of guards needed to admit spectators, athletes and officials through airline-style security, organisers said on Monday.

The games are Britain's largest peacetime security operation and keeping the competition safe now looks set to cost more than a billion pounds out of the event's total 9.3 billion pound budget.

An extra 13,700 guards, including an unspecified number of soldiers and volunteers, will be employed on top of the 10,000 already planned to secure the perimeters of the Olympic and Paralympic venues.

The original estimate of guard numbers had been made before the final design of the venues became clear and the publication of the competition schedules, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said.

Increased uncertainty over international security after the Arab Spring uprisings and other events had also been a factor in the jump in the guard force.

"When I started being a minister 18 months ago, there was no Arab Spring, for example. Nobody necessarily knows whether that is going to have a beneficial or an adverse effect," Robertson told reporters.

"The situation is pretty fluid and that is what sometimes makes some of this planning difficult."

The extra staff mean the venue security budget will jump to 553 million pounds from the previous estimate of 282 million, organisers said in a quarterly financial report.

"That is the amount that we think is absolutely necessary to deliver a safe and secure games", Robertson added.

The spending increase comes on top of the 475 million pounds already planned for policing and other security measures outside stadiums, with 12,000 officers on duty at peak during the games.

The attraction of the Games to militants determined to publicise their cause means the British government can take no chances with security.

The main Olympic venue in London may even be protected by missiles against airborne attack, in line with measures taken in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004, Defence Minister Philip Hammond said last month.

The Games coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics, when 11 Israeli team members died after being held hostage by Palestinian gunmen.

Britain has been a terrorist target for many years, with its role in Iraq and Afghanistan as a leading U.S. ally increasing the threat from Islamic militants.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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