Minister promises ‘safe and secure’ Olympic Games
LONDON, April 18 – London Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson expressed full confidence today that Britain would deliver a “safe and secure” Games this year.
Security has been the major issue facing the Olympics after four suicide bombers killed 52 people on three packed underground trains and a bus the day after London was awarded the Games on July 6, 2005.
“Terrorism is a threat for any major western country,” Robertson told a news conference in Kew Gardens to mark the 100-day countdown. “It is now and it always has been.
“At the end of last year we rearranged the security budget precisely to meet that threat. There’s now a much better mix of military, private security guards, volunteers backed by a very considerable military contingent who work very, very closely with the metropolitan police and the security services.
“I am absolutely as confident as I possibly can be 100 days out that we will deliver a safe and secure Games.”
Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt would not say whether any Syrian officials would be banned, although he said all European Union and United Kingdom travel bans remained in place.
“We are being very careful to make sure who we’ll allow to come to these Games,” he said. “But in the end there will be people who come to these Games whose political views we disagree with.
“We will be keeping a very, very close watch on who is coming in and will not allow people to come into the United Kingdom if we think there will be any kind of danger to national security.”
London organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe, who is also a vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said conversations had taken place at the world governing body’s Monaco headquarters with the cash-strapped Greek federation (SEGAS).
SEGAS suspended its operations this month in protest at cutbacks in state funding.
“The Greek issue is a serious issue,” Coe said. “We want the best teams in the world.”
Asked about the possibility of strike action affecting the Games, Hunt said the government was confident the vast majority of union members would want to make sure the Games were not interrupted.
“I don’t think the unions will want to be on the wrong side of public opinion on that,” he said. “So we are confident where there are industrial disputes to negotiate in good faith with the unions and we are confident in the end they will want to do the right thing.”
Organising committee chief executive Chris Deighton said special measures had been put in place for the busiest day at London’s main airport Heathrow.
Deighton said a special terminal would be in place to process departing athletes on Aug. 13, the day after the closing ceremony.
The organising committee announced the aerobatic display team the Red Arrows would perform a flypast over Britain to mark the opening ceremony on July 27.
It also said 22 sites throughout Britain would show live sporting action on giant television screens from the Games to up to half a million a people a day. – Reuters