Safe and Secure: The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Security preparations for 2012The prospect of the world's attention, an immovable deadline, some complex internal politics and the sheer scale of the challenge all combine to make the safety and security preparations for the 2012 Games one of the most engaging subjects in the security field. On 13 November RUSI, in conjunction with the Home Office, brought together the key actors publicly for the first time to present and discuss the government's strategy and the related challenges.


The day began with a keynote presentation by Lord West, the government's security minister. Setting the context for the Games he noted that, with less than twenty-four hours between the award of the Games and the terrorist attacks on London which killed fifty-two people and injured over 700, the task of securing London and the UK in 2012 was at the fore of planner's minds from the very outset. With less than 1,000 days to go before the opening of the Games, the challenge of securing them has now been fully realised. The size and scale of the London Games is staggering: 14,000 coaches and officials, 15,000 athletes, 20,000 members of the world media and over 9 million ticket sales spread over thirty-four venues. Not all of this activity will be restricted to London; but the capital will already be inundated with the plethora of regular summertime events such as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the Notting Hill Carnival. The sum of all this is nothing less than the biggest security challenge to face the UK since the Second World War.

The government's updated strategy for delivering a safe and secure Games ties in closely to its counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST. The central tenets of the Olympic strategy - Protect, Prepare, Identify and Disrupt, Plan and Resource, and Engage - have a deliberate consonance with the 'four Ps' which lie at the heart of CONTEST. The Games strategy was signed off by the government's Olympic Executive committee (GOE) in February this year and, as the key Olympic delivery partners set about presenting them to a packed Institute, the key principles that will underpin Olympic safety and security became clear. Central among these principles was an emphasis on the Olympics as a cultural and sporting occasion which should be facilitated by safety and security rather than preoccupied with them.


In terms of funding, the Olympic and Paralympic security operations will heavily leverage so-called 'business as usual' resources: £12 billion already spent on policing and £3.5 billion spent on countering terrorism. More specifically the UK has set aside a £600 million funding envelope for the Games, derived from some £9 billion of overall public investment in the Games. A £235 million security contingency fund is also contained within the £9 billion figure. Spending will be substantially accounted for by an increase in the police's capacity rather than any major capital investment programmes. Demonstrating genuine 'Olympic addtionality' over and above the work they are routinely funded for is to be the key criteria for the police service, or any agency, seeking to charge their activities against Olympic security budgets. Resourcing for Olympic safety and security will be derived from business as usual resources, the Olympic envelope, and the Olympic Development Agency (ODA) and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) budgets in areas of their responsibility.

Olympic Partners

The ODA is the non-governmental body responsible for construction and re-generation in preparation for the Olympics. In the Olympic Park they are working on seven principal sites which are now 50 per cent complete, on time and on budget. In terms of security, the ODA is responsible for the mitigation of risk associated with the physical security of the park and is seeking to do this via 'built-in' solutions wherever possible. This work is done in co-operation with various delivery partners and the UK Border Agency, the Security Services and the Met Police are embedded with the ODA on the Olympic site. Creating a security regime which can be seamlessly transitioned to LOCOG for their Olympics overlay and Games-time operation of venues is the ODA's key challenge. Similarly, identifying and allocating responsibility for residual risk and pre-emptive planning for legacy risks are core to the mitigation efforts of the ODA. Based on the experience and best practice of previous organising committees, LOCOG will use an 'island site' methodology, such as securing perimeters, to secure the Olympic sites during Games-time. LOCOG's Games-time security responsibilities will be carried out by a mixture of police officers, private security contractors and volunteers. LOCOG recognises the challenges of training and scale associated with these workforces, and is engaged with industry and the third sector in order to meet them.

At a strategic level there was a high level of unanimity around objectives and the allocation of responsibilities between the delivery partners. A business as usual mindset prevailed placing faith in up-scaled versions of existing practices and technologies wherever possible.

Strategic Risk

Risk to the Games is being mapped via a consolidated risk register, the Olympic Safety and Security Strategic Risk Assessment (OSSSRA). The methodology employed draws greatly upon the work done around the national risk assessment and the resultant national risk register. Five key areas of threat and hazard have been identified in advance of the games: terrorism, organised crime, domestic extremism, public disorder and natural hazards. The sixty-four days of the Games are the primary unit for analysis although risks such as corruption in advance of the Games will also have to be accounted for. The Olympic risk assessment draws on intelligence from thirty to thirty-five contributing agencies and organisations including the Security Services, the Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre (JTAC), the Defence Intelligence Service (DIS), Department of Health and the Met Office. Threats are assessed in consultation with contributing organisations and via several criteria, in particular 'likelihood' (does anybody have the intent to pose a threat? Is this paired with the requisite capability to turn a risk into a real threat?) and 'impact' (what would be the impact if a specific risk were to manifest?). Impact is scored via twelve indices covering factors such as consequences for the emergency services through to reputational damage for London and the Games. The Olympic risk assessment process is seeking to avoid duplication with existing processes, such as the National Risk Assessment, by only considering additional risks which have emerged as a result of the Olympic's presence in the UK. Currently there are approximately thirty strategic risks which feature on the OSSSRA. There is little expectation that the number will change significantly as the time for the Games approaches.

Tactical Risk

At a tactical level the venue-specific risk assessments will be generated via a Comparative Risk Assessment Methodology (CRAM). Developed from previous best practice and leading private sector techniques, CRAM has established itself as a valuable tool. Crucially, CRAMs are developed and agreed on an inter-agency basis. The resulting consensus around the vulnerability of the Olympic sites provides a good context for the thoroughly integrated delivery of the chosen security regime. LOCOG and the Met Police are the main partners concerned with tactical-level security. By applying CRAM uniformly across all the different venues they mitigate the inconsistencies to which the range of different venue ownership and operator arrangements might otherwise be vulnerable.

From the CRAMs, specific venue mitigation plans are drawn up and passed to local teams charged with identifying appropriate security solutions. Emphasis is placed on this as an iterative process with continual review of the CRAMs and the resultant security solutions so as to take account of the inevitably changing circumstances ahead of the Games.


Preparations for Games-time resilience, entitled the 'Olympic Resilience Project', will also draw heavily upon the business as usual principle. The planning places great faith in the substantial UK resilience work, the systems and the culture which has been established with considerable success in the last five-to-six years. The emphasis will be on co-operation between local partners and through the local, regional and national structures that are now firmly embedded. It is estimated the 85 per cent of what is required for the UK to deliver a resilient Games is already in place. The remainder can be accounted for as Olympic additionality: extra planning and resources where the scale of the Olympics threatens to be too great for existing arrangements. The work of identifying areas requiring additional capability has already begun and will draw, in part, on the national capabilities survey. The resource and funding entailed in rolling out Olympic additionality promises an excellent return on investment in terms of the new skills and practices which should become standards for the future.


A safe secure and reliable transport system for the Games will be delivered in the context of keeping the remainder of London moving. Much of the transport infrastructure created for the Games will remain as a legacy benefit for East London. During Games-time, the transport of athletes will become a priority. Uniquely, these will be a public transport games: 100 per cent of spectators will be transported to the Games by public transport with no provision for private commuting. As with non-Games-time, the security of the network must be balanced with ensuring its operational efficiency. Again, business as usual is an important principle and a dedicated transport police force and established collaborative risk assessment processes within airports are examples of strong existing practices which are being built upon. Nevertheless, the Olympics do entail some unique challenges. Changes in travel patterns, the creation of a new 11pm rush hour and managing the simultaneous exits of large numbers of VIPs are amongst the most pressing.


As Margaret Gilmore points out in this issue of Monitor, the practical delivery of a safe and secure Games nevertheless requires that the emphasis remains on sport rather than security. It was emphasised at the conference that London 2012 would primarily be a 'blue games': while the military may be asked to contribute some niche services, with their capabilities required as a contingency in the case of overwhelming emergency, the Games will be delivered primarily by the police service. A key challenge in doing so will be delivering consistently across the eleven different policing jurisdictions around the sites. Under current arrangements regional Chief Constables have primacy. Achieving consistency will involve reaching consensus rather than centrally dictated approaches. In preparation for the Games, a team including LOCOG, the ODA, the MET and OSD has been established at Canary Wharf acting as the co-ordination point for the police service. Programme delivery is now very distinct from programme management at the Home Office and consists of about twenty-six projects which are being contracted out to subject experts.

Throughout the Olympics, each force area will nominate a gold, silver and bronze command with a national gold co-ordinator sitting above the regional golds and acting as a link with government. Effectively overseeing practical delivery of policing and security at Games-time will also necessitate the creation of the National Olympics Co-ordination Centre (NOCC). Based in Central London, the NOCC will be a hub through which all relevant information and intelligence will flow. Contained at the NOCC will be national representatives from all the agencies involved in the Olympics. Again, the emphasis is on working with existing structures and ensuring their ability to cope with the scale of the Olympics rather than devising entirely new structures. The systems for deploying police officers and national counter-terrorism command and control will remain unchanged.


The uniformity of purpose displayed by those speaking at the conference and the high degree of buy-in from the delegates they were engaging with was testament to the remarkable re-organisation and communication of Olympic security preparations in the previous eighteen months. There remains much work to be done and inevitably some contention about the detailed planning. However, it was almost impossible to leave the conference without a bolstered faith in safety and security preparations and the sense that UK PLC is on course to deliver an Olympic Games of which it can be very proud.

The Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security conference held at RUSI on 13 November 2009 brought together key stakeholders and decision-makers to discuss the unprecedented security challenge of the 2012 Games. Visit to access the presentations of Cabinet Office, Home Office, police and security industry representatives.

For more information on this and other aspects of the RUSI Risk and Resilience programme, contact Anthony McGee, Head of Resilience, at

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