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Security preparations for the London 2012 Olympics have been thrown into question as the News of the World Hacking scandal continues to creep like a dark fog through media and government establishments in the UK. Metropolitan Police Commissioner and head of London 2012 Olympic Security, Sir Paul Stephenson, was forced to step down amidst criticisms of professional integrity for his role in the scandal. Sir Paul’s resignation came after information emerged about the recruitment of ex-News of the World executive Neil Wallis as a PR consultant for the commissioner. The Met also lost its top counter-terrorism policemen, Assistant John Yates, in the imbroglio. News of the turmoil in the senior ranks of the Met have come up against widespread criticism that security at the London 2012 Summer Olympics is being jeopardized.
Tony Blair and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson insist however, that London 2012 security will not be compromised by the upheaval that has thrown the Metropolitan Police into disrepute. In a recent interview, Mr. Blair affirmed: “Sir Paul did a great job but I think that the security preparations are so clear and plain. We have got a lot of experience doing this now. The system will run.”
On this particular security issue in the United Kingdom, Tony Blair might just be right. Beneath the surface of Blair’s comments about a “clear and plain” Olympic Security “system” rests a deeper point about how Olympic security operations are now being carried out as part of an increasingly globalized and systematized institution.
Since 1976, approaches to mega-event security at the Olympics have become progressively standardized, mobile and global. Trends in Olympic security are marked through the circulation of systematic policy templates that emulate, and build upon, security operations from previous events around the world. As Pete Fussey and Jon Coaffee observe, such a move toward ‘blue-print’ security models have coalesced since the terrorist attacks at Munich in 1972, and especially since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) assumed a more proactive role in security planning since the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984 (Fussey and Coaffee 2011). One might now argue there is a new Olympic tradition—that of a highly specialized field of policy expertise for managing security operations at global mega-events around the world.
In this current Security Games web project feature, we look at a paper from Pete Fussey and Jon Coaffee (2011) on how an increasingly standardized move toward Olympic security policy might indicate that the resignation of key senior posts in London's Olympic security operations will have little effect in the long run for security preparations and protection at 2012.
The paper, entitled “Constructing Security for London 2012”, examines common dynamics found in globalized Olympic security practices that have endured across space and time—yet are now being woven through the urban terrain of London 2012. These sorts of globalized Olympic security standardizations, the authors argue, are largely constituted through technologically patrolled urban spaces and are articulated with local threat designations, which ultimately “impact unevenly on the idiosyncratic geographies of different Olympic cities to which they are applied” (Fussey and Coaffee 2011: 36).
Fussey and Coaffee insist that London “already exhibits many of the characteristics comprising standardized Olympic security programmes” through its focus on “separated urban spaces” and associated strategies of technological surveillance for dealing with crime, terrorism and other risks. Readers of the chapter will come away with a deeper understanding of the scope of London’s Olympic security strategy throughout the phases of the security cycle—from bid, preparation, development, application and legacies. Fussey and Coaffee conclude by noting the legacy impacts of Olympic security orthodoxies in the host city of London—particularly for prospects of a potential increase in “non-terrorist” criminalization of East Londoners.