LONDON — British troops dressed in fatigues manned Olympic Park security checkpoints Tuesday, putting on their friendliest faces as visitors, volunteers, and the media trickled onto the site.
All went well, but it was a far cry from the first impression London Olympics organizers had intended.
The soldiers were called in at the last minute to fill the staffing gap left by the Olympics’ private security contractor, G4S. Last week, the company’s failure forced the government to turn 3,500 British soldiers into security guards for the Games. One British parliament minister called the conduct of G4S a “humiliating shambles.”
In the post 9/11-era, the Olympics can be appealing terrorist targets with hundreds of dignitaries, politicians, and royals attending and the world watching. The size and scope of the London Games — 30 filled-to-capacity venues spread across Europe’s second largest city, several hundred thousand spectators packed into subway trains every day and countless viewing parties at neighborhood pubs — present numerous hard and soft targets. And those targets come with numerous security challenges.
Attempting to handle those challenges, London Olympics organizers and government officials have spent several years on logistical coordination and contingency planning aimed at delivering the highest degree of security without dampening the festive spirit of the Games.
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