Riots in London Spark Olympic Security Review as 2012 Test Events Go Ahead
Organizers of the 2012 London Olympics won’t cancel test events planned for this week as they review security after three days of riots in the British capital.
A six-day beach volleyball event starting today at Horse Guards Parade, near the No. 10 Downing Street official residence of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, and the London-Surrey cycling road race this weekend will go ahead as planned, according to the London organizing committee, known as Locog.
“A lot of detailed work has taken place regarding security plans for the Games, and we will continue to review them together with the Met. Police and the Home Office over the coming year,” a Locog spokeswoman said in an interview.
Cameron, who last night cut his Tuscan holiday short and returned to the U.K., said there will be 16,000 police officers on duty in London tonight, up from 6,000 last night. The rioting has seen petrol bombs being thrown, buildings set on fire and shops being ransacked. More than 450 people have been arrested, Cameron said.
The Games start July 27 next year with the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in east London. Representatives of more than 200 national Olympic committees are in London for meetings today about logistics and accommodation.
It is not the first time an Olympic host city has had to deal with riots before the Games. Ten days before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, government forces opened fire on protesters on the Plaza de Tres Culturas, which led to a death toll of at least 250, according to the “The Complete Book of the Olympics” by David Wallechinsky. Students rioted in Seoul in the run-up to the 1988 Summer Olympics.
“Security at the Olympic Games is a top priority for the International Olympic Committee,” the IOC said in an e-mailed statement today. “It is, however, directly handled by the local authorities, as they know best what is appropriate and proportionate. We are confident they will do a good job in this domain.”
Earlier today, the English Football Association called off tomorrow’s exhibition soccer match between England and the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium in northwest London following the rioting across the capital. East London soccer club West Ham United said today’s Carling Cup match against Aldershot has been postponed following a request from the police.
“It’s scandalous that street terror seems to be winning the battle with the authorities,” Lloyd Vandenberg, chairman of the Dutch soccer supporters club, said in an interview today from Amsterdam. “I would never have expected England to have let this happen, particularly in light of the Olympic Games next year. You would have expected the government to stand up to the rioters forcefully, by bringing in the army for example.”
Vandenberg estimated some 1,500 Dutch fans would have travelled to Wembley Stadium to watch their team play. About 300 are already in the British capital, he added.
A statement from the Metropolitan Police Service reported “serious outbreaks of disorder,” including looting, in a number of London boroughs, including Hackney, Newham, Lewisham, Bethnal Green, Croydon and Hackney. The west London suburb of Ealing was also struck by riots.
Newham, where a large part of the Olympic Games will be held, is the sixth-most deprived district in England out of more than 350 assessed by the government. The east London district is home to the Olympic Park, which will host the swimming, cycling, handball and basketball. It will house the press and broadcast centers as well as the Olympic stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events will be held.
The violence is unlikely to have an impact on next year’s Games, the European Tour Operators Association said.
“The Olympics is overwhelmingly a domestic event,” the group’s executive director Tom Jenkins said in an emailed statement. “British people won’t be put off from visiting the Olympics in Stratford because a year earlier shop windows were broken in Hackney.”
Preparing Team GB
The British Olympic Association said in a statement that “the events of the past few days have had no impact on our planning and preparation.” It added that its focus remains on preparing Team GB.
“The primary responsibility for security rests with law enforcement authorities, who work closely with the Games organizing committee and other bodies to ensure every measure is taken to provide a safe and secure environment,” the BOA said. “We know that security has been a top priority in the planning and preparation for London 2012, and we have full confidence in the work being done to prepare for the Games.”
BOA Chairman Colin Moynihan said in an interview yesterday that “overall the policing for the Games is at such a high level of organization and commitment that there will be no problems associated with a successful Games.”
Athletes including women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain have expressed their shock at the violence.
“In less than one year we welcome the world to London, and right now the world doesn’t want to come,” Radcliffe, who plans to compete in the Olympic marathon next year, said on Twitter.
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