1Missiles could be deployed to protect London


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The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said yesterday that surface-to-air missiles could be in place to protect the 2012 Olympics as the government insisted it could cope with the country's biggest security operation for decades.

Mr Hammond's statement in the House of Commons appeared intended to ease concerns after US disquiet with the arrangements. It is holding intensive talks with Britain and plans to send some its own agents. Initial estimates of the number of private security guards needed for the 34 venues have also proved to be far too low and soldiers are likely to be used to fill the shortfall.

The US and Israel have raised concerns over security at previous Olympics, notably in Greece, when pre-Games tests revealed major problems. An agent disguised as a pregnant woman smuggled in a fake bomb during one test of security procedures.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry yesterday declined to say if it was working with the British authorities on security for its own athletes.

"That's not something we want to discuss," said a spokesman. "Any exchanges on these issues are limited to a very, very small circle of professionals and that's where it's going to stay."

Police confirmed that a small number of foreign "security liaison officers" would be in Britain for the Games.

Security company G4S was given the contract this year to provide some 10,000 security staff and yesterday began advertising for positions to X-ray bags, check CCTV, search people, and patrol arenas during 12-hour shifts.

"Experience is beneficial but as long as you can remain calm under pressure, think quickly on your feet, and are good with people, we'd like to hear from you," according to one advertisement. A spokesman said the company had flexibility to recruit more if required. The security industry initially estimated that about 10,000 staff would be needed at venues but revised plans have increased that number to up to 21,000, according to some industry estimates. The Home Office, the Games organising committee Locog, and police declined to comment on the figure.

The current Home Office risk assessment of attack from international terrorists stands at "substantial" – the third highest level. The national Olympic security coordinator, Chris Allison, of the Metropolitan Police, said that he believed 12,000 police will be needed nationally for the event.