International security company G4S suffered considerable embarrassment last month when they were unable to fulfil their £284m Olympic security contract. G4S had been engaged by the London Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG) to provide 10,400 guards for the Olympic security operation. According to an article on World News Australia, approximately 13,500 military personnel had also been engaged in addition to the G4S guards, making this “Britain's biggest peacetime security operation”. The role of the G4S guards was to protect venues and equipment by managing queues and conducting searches and screening of spectators at the entrances to Olympic facilities. Just weeks before the Games were due to commence, G4S announced that they could not provide the required workforce numbers for the Games due to a delay in recruitment procedures. Specifically, the company claimed that they were unable to process enough applicants through their training and accreditation systems in time. A revised target of 7,000 guards also proved to be beyond the company’s capacity to deliver.
In a public statement, LOGOG chairman, Lord Coe expressed the commitment of the government to ensuring that security for the Games would not be compromised as a result of the shortfall. He was quoted in the Guardian saying, "my responsibility is to make sure that we get a Games that is safe and secure. We will do that, and it is to make sure that our teams, the Home Office and the military sit alongside G4S and mobilise and deploy exactly who we need to." The government subsequently placed a further 3,500 troops on standby to make up for the shortfall.
According to the Guardian, G4S Chief Executive Nick Buckles was called upon to explain the situation to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. It was reported that Buckles accepted 100% responsibility for the company’s inability to meet its obligations. He admitted that the incident was a “humiliating shambles” and also expressed regret for signing the Olympic security contract for the purpose of "boost(ing) the company's reputation". The article reported that the Committee Chairman responded by describing the company as "unacceptable, incompetent and amateurish".
The financial and reputational repercussions of this incident for G4S have been enormous. G4S have incurred the cost of the additional military mobilised for the operation. They have also, according to World News Australia, accepted responsibility for other “significant costs” associated with the fulfillment of their contractual promises. It is estimated that the company will sustain a total loss of between £35-50m. The Guardian reported that the company’s hopes of bidding for the 2014 football World Cup or 2016 Olympic security contracts have also effectively been dropped.
And if the G4S debacle wasn’t enough to shake public confidence in the Olympic security arrangements, police responsible for Olympic venues came forward in the first week of the Games with the news that they had ‘misplaced’ the keys to Wembley Football Stadium. While no security incidents occurred as a result, BBC World News reported that the replacement of these internal laser security keys and locks on the Stadium cost around £40,000.
Given the history of security incidents at previous Olympic Games such as Munich and Atlanta security is always a high profile topic of media scrutiny leading into any Games. The successes of the Games have vindicated LOCOG of any security-related criticism however we suspect G4S may not be so lucky.