LONDON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Businessman David Bradley, smartly dressed in a shirt and tie, sat in the recruitment centre, a disused school in a run-down part of east London, waiting to fill in an application form to be a security guard at the London Olympics.
“I’ll probably not see the Olympics in the UK again,” he said.
“It is an opportunity to be close to the Games - the buzz.”
The 56-year-old, who runs his own sun-bed rental business, is one of 34,000 hopefuls applying for the 10,000 jobs on offer to guard the Olympic venues this summer.
The Olympics will be Britain’s largest peacetime security operation and guards will receive counter-terrorism training.
The country has been a target for Islamist militants for many years as a leading ally of U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 52 people were killed in suicide bombings in the capital in 2005 — the day after London’s bid won the vote to stage the Olympics.
Bradley, who will have gone through a number of tests if selected, might be one of the first faces spectators see when they approach one of the 30 Olympic venues.
All his senses would have been tested, except taste. Colour blindness would have precluded him working on the X-ray machines at stadium entrances, while a hearing problem would restrict his chances of responding to an alarm.
Checks would have been carried out to see if he had a criminal record or debts. Officials would also want to see if he had the right to work in Britain and would take up personal references and vet work history.
Security firm G4S, in charge of one of the biggest paid recruitment drives in Britain this century, said it was looking to recruit guards with a broad range of backgrounds.
About 4,500 roles have already been allocated, and of those waiting to fill in their application forms in the shadow of the Olympic Park many were relying on their retail experience to help them through.
They will be paid 8.50 pounds an hour, above the national minimum wage, and training will take between 18 hours and 75 hours, depending on the role and experience.
“They need to be competent and the style of engagement needs to be appropriate,” Ian Johnston, director of security and resilience for London organising committee (LOCOG), told Reuters.
“What you do needs to be very efficient the how you do it needs to be extremely engaging. We want people to be human, we want them to be reassuring, we want them to be welcoming, and to behave in a way that recognises people’s privacy.”
Organisers were criticised after it emerged last year that more military personnel would be needed after a rethink on numbers. About 7,500 troops, in army uniform, will be at about seven venues helping to admit spectators, athletes and officials through airline-style security.
The armed personnel and private guards will have their own distinct chain of command, both reporting to LOCOG, though police will be called in if there is an incident.
The military will undergo the same training as the civilian guards, but have separate tasks, though private guards may be required to work with the military in the case of an emergency.
Private guards are expected to concentrate on queue management and protecting the perimeters and equipment, while a spectator may first come across a serviceman at vehicle and pedestrian searches.
They will be helped at the start of the security process by volunteers and students.
Mark Hamilton, managing director of G4S Olympic security, defended the need to call in additional military.
“I am not in any way unhappy at the fact that the military have become involved or that the planning process did not take into account there might be an expansion in the workforce,” he told Reuters.
“Plans develop, needs change. I think military personnel are very well thought of in the United Kingdom, and I think that in itself people will be happy to see the military.” (Reporting by Avril Ormsby)