The organisers of this summer’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games have been accused of signing a “totally unacceptable” deal with a major arms company to provide security for the £524m event.
Selex ES, an Anglo-Italian defence firm which manufactures weapon-targeting systems and supplies drones, has won the contract to provide surveillance cameras, security fencing and communications equipment for more than 20 venues, including the athletes’ village, for the Games.
The company, which is owned by the Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, the world’s ninth-largest arms firm, is a significant employer in Britain, with 2,000 staff in Scotland and manufacturing bases from Bristol to York. Its clients include governments with poor human rights records including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Anti-arms trade campaigners said the involvement of Selex ES in a major sporting event was immoral and part of a pattern of defence companies that sell to repressive regimes seeking “legitimacy” by involvement with high-profile events.
The company, which also supplies radar technology for drones used by Israel, is also a sponsor of this month’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. Finmeccanica ended its sponsorship of the National Gallery a year early in 2012, after criticism that the gallery was being used to host arms trade-related functions.
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “This is the latest example of arms companies using public events to try to give themselves legitimacy. Selex is a totally unacceptable partner for any family or educational events, whether it is the Commonwealth Games or the Edinburgh Science Festival. Their weapons have been supplied to strengthen dictatorships across the world.”
Dr Stuart Parkinson, executive director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, said: “Companies such as Selex are trying to get their names recognised in society for positive things and thus deflecting some of the criticism that is aimed at them.”
The organising committee of the Glasgow Games describes Selex ES as its “official protective perimeter security provider” as well as a member of the event’s “sponsor family” and an “official supporter”. Its installations, funded from a £90m security budget, are due for completion by early July ahead of the start of the Games on 23 July.
The technology company, which has a base in Edinburgh, specialises in state-of-the-art electronics and sells its missile and weapon control systems around the world.
It recently sold dual-use radar technology to Bahrain, which has been strongly criticised for its human rights record. The company’s regional marketing manager said earlier this year that Bahrain has “requirements for sophisticated defence-electronic equipment that we are perfectly positioned to meet”.
The company has put particular emphasis on its expertise in the field of drones and has sold its Falco surveillance drone to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In publicity material, Selex ES says it is “working to position itself as one of the main players in the fast-evolving and growing market” for unmanned aircraft.
The company has also supplied surveillance radar for the Hermes 450, an armed drone used by the Israeli military.
A spokesman for Selex said they “reject the allegation that it strengthens dictatorial regimes”, adding that the company supports the Government’s approach to export sales and “will not sell its systems and technology to customers that do not meet these right and proper criteria”.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014 said: “Selex ES has a strong record of supporting the security needs of large events ... Their expertise will support the delivery of a safe and secure Games in Scotland.”