Security for the 2012 Summer Olympics

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A Rapier FSC Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) system at Blackheath, London on 2 May 2012.

Security for the 2012 Summer Olympics was led by the police, with 13,000 officers available, supported by 17,000 members of the armed forces. Naval and air assets, including ships situated in the Thames, Eurofighter jets and surface-to-air missiles, which were deployed as part of the security operation. The final cost of the security operation was estimated 553m pounds sterling. The budget for venue security was being partly funded by LOCOG as well as using the contingency from the £9.3 billion infrastructure budget. Private security firm G4S, after scandals regarding training and manpower emerged mere weeks before the games did not provide their planned 13,700 staff; the number was instead approximately 10,000. This was be the biggest security operation Britain had faced for decades as the number of security personnel totalled 40,000. The day after the city was selected to host the Olympics, the London Underground and a London Bus was attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists.

Air defences[edit]

Map showing Olympic missile sites and the stadium
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Rapier missile sites. 1 Blackheath, 2 Oxleas Wood, 3 Enfield, 4 Epping Forest

Air defences were installed around the Olympic stadium to stop potential suicide airplane attacks, similar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA.[1] There were six missile sites, four using Rapier missiles and two using Starstreak missiles. After initially announcing the possibility of installing missiles the British government confirmed they would be deployed from mid July.[2]

Rapier missiles are surface-to-air missiles designed to shoot down aeroplanes. A short-range air defence system, it consists of eight missiles with a tracking radar and a surveillance radar.[3] There were four rapier sites - two in north London and two in south London.

The Rapier sites were:

  • Blackheath Common[4][1]
  • Oxleas Wood, Eltham[4][1]
  • William Girling Reservoir, Enfield[4][1]
  • Barn Hill, Netherstone Farm, near Epping Forest[4][5][1]

In addition two sites were selected for Starstreak missiles. They were at the top of tall buildings closer to the Olympic Stadium. One of the sites was the water tower of a factory converted into upmarket flats in Bow.[6] The other was a 15 story block of Council flats in Leytonstone. The residents of the latter took the government to court to protest against the siting of the missile battery, a case they lost on 10 July 2012.[7][8][9]

The Starstreak sites were:

  • Lexington Building, Bow Quarter in LB Tower Hamlets[4]
  • Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, LB Waltham Forest[4]

The defences were tested in a large training exercise during 2–10 May 2012, known as Exercise Olympic Guardian, which preceded the operational phase of the campaign. The exercise involved Boeing E-3 Sentry from RAF Waddington, VC-10 tanker aircraft from RAF Brize Norton and Typhoon fast jets from 3(F) Sqn operating from RAF Northolt, the first time RAF fighters had been stationed at the West London base since the Second World War.[10]

Supporting the air defence role over London were RAF Pumas based at the TA Centre at Ilford, Fleet Air Arm Sea Kings at Northolt, and Army Air Corps and four FAA Lynxes operating from HMS Ocean, which was moored on the Thames. Airborne early warning security were supplemented by Type 101 ground-based radar from 1 Air Control Centre, deployed to Kent, together with three-man Army teams positioned around London, equipped with binoculars.[10]

From 14 July 2012, Royal Air Force, Army and Navy assets and personnel began enforcing a 30-mile exclusion zone over London and other areas,[11] though this is not expected to affect commercial on established routes.[citation needed]

Maritime defences[edit]

A Long Range Acoustic Device
Wheeled bin posters against the plans to install missiles during the games

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines were equipped with the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which uses directional sound as an anti-personnel weapon.[12] It was attached to a landing craft on the Thames at Westminster, and was to be used primarily in loud-hailer mode as a so-called acoustic hailing device, rather than as a weapon.[12] Royal Marines operated from HMS Ocean in small craft armed with conventional weapons.[12]

IT Security[edit]

BT were responsible for the IT infrastructure for the Olympics, and for securing the network perimeter against electronic attacks. The company had been warned to expect a high intensity of complex and determined attacks, but instead found that the attacks were "unsophisticated and perpetrated by children". When monitoring social media and chat sites for information on which targets might be attacked next, BT staff observed one would-be hacker breaking off a planning session because their mother was calling them to eat their tea, and another defending their technical performance by saying "what do you expect, I’m only 12?". The other main IT security obstacle encountered was the requirement to allow over 25,000 journalists access to network services; many of their computers were infected with viruses or other malware. BT contacted a number of spam blacklisting companies to explain the resulting increase in spam from its network.[13]

Preparation concerns[edit]

After it emerged in July 2012 that G4S, the company in charge of providing security, was unable to train enough security staff, an additional 3,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were assigned to security duties at the Olympics.[14][15]

Lord Coe, chairman of LOCOG, said that the security of the Olympics had not been compromised as a result.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Armed and ready: For the first time since the Second World War, London's green space is transformed by anti-aircraft guns for Olympic ring of steel". Daily Mail. 13 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "London 2012: Olympic missiles sites confirmed". BBC News. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Press Information:JERNAS" (PDF). MDBA Missile Systems. September 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Davenport, Justin (30 April 2012). "Ring of Missile Sites in Capital". London Evening Standard. pp. 1, 4–5. 
  5. ^ "WALTHAM ABBEY: Farm owner defends missile base". Waltham Forest Guardian. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "UK puts missiles on London rooftop to guard Olympics". Reuters. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "London 2012: Missile tower block tenants drop legal bid". BBC News. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Booth, Robert (29 April 2012). "London rooftops to carry missiles during Olympic Games". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "London Olympics 2012: MoD rooftop missile base plan alarms local residents". The Daily Telegraph. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b RAF News, 18 May 2012
  11. ^ "UK Armed Forces Enforce Olympic Airspace Limits". Armed Forces International. 13 July 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Thomas, Gavin (11 May 2012). "'Sonic weapon' deployed in London during Olympics". BBC News Online. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Muncaster, Phil (21 November 2012). "BT: Olympics cyber attackers were amateurs". The Register. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Burns, John F. (14 July 2012). "Amid Reports of Ineptitude, Concerns Over Security at London Olympics". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Magnay, Jacquelin; Kirkup, James (13 July 2012). "London 2012 Olympics: Games could need more troops, Lord Coe suggests". The Daily Telegraph. 
  16. ^ "London 2012 security not compromised, says Coe". BBC News. 15 July 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.