Friday 17 November 2017

London’s image takes a battering ahead of Olympics

Helen William, Press Association Olympics Correspondent

Mass rioting is giving London's image a beating as it prepares for the Olympics.

There has been anger from athletes and reassurance from Olympic officials that 2012 will be a safe Games in the face of the shocking scenes of mayhem and violence being flashed around the world.



London 2012 is pressing ahead with a series of key test events which form a vital part of preparations, such as the beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade.



A spokesman said: "A lot of detailed work has taken place regarding security plans for the Games and we will continue to review them together with the Met Police and the Home Office over the coming year."



An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said: "Security at the Olympic Games is a top priority for the IOC.



"It is, however, directly handled by the local authorities, as they know best what is appropriate and proportionate. We are confident they will do a good job in this domain."



The Surrey Cycle classic on Sunday, a test event for the cycling road race which will go through the streets of London, is due to take place as planned, as is the marathon swimming event at Hyde Park on Saturday.



More than 200 chef de missions - Olympic managers - are in London for meetings about team preparations for the Games. Transport, accommodation, team support facilities and security are among the range of issues being discussed.



Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes tweeted: "A bloody disgrace, a minority of hooligans are sending out bad message for the rest of the country. World eyes 2012!"



She also tweeted: "Until we get discipline and respect brought back into our society it wont change. Starts at home. Schools need powers back! Bring in the Army!



"Respect comes from respecting yourself first. Clearly some don't know what respect means and no that's NOT just kids!"



British athletes hoping to compete at London 2012 are bemused and angry.



Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said on Twitter: "In less than 1 year we welcome the world to London, and right now the world doesn't want to come?"



Andy Turner, the European and Commonwealth 110m hurdle champion, tweeted: "Nothing more than bravado" adding "99% of these LOSERS have no idea why they r rioting".



Turner has represented Team GB at the last two Olympics and hopes to be at London 2012.



Sprinter Kelly Sotherton tweeted: "Bring in the Army. How the hell can the police deal with this!?"



She also said: "How does burning down the home of 26 families and a carpet shop solve anything?"



Since the weekend violence in the London districts of Tottenham, Brixton, Lewisham, Hackney, Croydon and Peckham has also spread to, among other areas, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.



The fast-moving attacks have included looting in Clapham, fires in Croydon, vandalism, violence against the police and burglary.



Groups of youths, many wearing hoods and masks, attacked shops and windows in the east London Olympic host borough of Hackney.



The clean-up has begun there but Hackney mayor Jules Pipe described the mob as "people bent on violence who attacked not just property and local businesses but put residents in fear of their lives".

Sporting fixtures are being cancelled in the wake of the violence.



Carling Cup ties at West Ham, Charlton, Crystal Palace and Bristol City have already been called off.



The move to cancel an England international is unprecedented in recent times.



Peckham-born England international Rio Ferdinand responded to the cancellation on Twitter, saying: "England vs Holland game is off, good call. Who wants to see a game of football when our country is in turmoil?"



With less than a year to go to the Games, the violence has triggered a flood of negative global coverage.



The Jamaica Observer ran coverage under the headline "London riots ignite fears about 2012 Olympics".



Under a headline which read "London riots cloud 2012 Olympics" the Times of India said: "As violence in London showed no sign of abating, questions surfaced about the metropolis being safe enough to stage next year's Olympic Games.



"On Monday morning, the police desperately sought to give the impression that the city was slowly gaining control after arresting over 170 people. Later, as the evening wore on, fresh violence in Hackney, close to the main Olympic stadium in East London, seemed ominous."



There is a regularly reviewed risk assessment which has about 29 issues on it but the four main concerns are the threat of terrorism, serious and organised crime, protests and a natural disaster, the Metropolitan Police and Olympic security officials note.



Plans for London 2012 anticipate that the security alert will be at severe risk level.

Security officials in charge of policing the Olympics stressed that the riots will not prompt some form of official review.



If there are any lessons to be learned, they will be built in to intelligence-planning for the Games.



With the violence still raging and just under a year to go until the Olympics, it is still too early to be clear on the impact.



Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, national Olympic security co-ordinator, said: "Our planning for safety and security for the Games is intelligence-led and based against a number of strategic risks, remaining flexible to enable swift and efficient response to emerging threats.



"Public disorder is one of those risks which we have already been planning against across the country.



"Obviously, in light of the appalling events in London over recent days, we will review our planning to ensure that any lessons are identified. But first, we must fully establish the circumstances of what has happened and at this time it is too early to say whether our planning will significantly change.



"What is absolutely clear is that we are committed to the Games being delivered in safety and security, for athletes, spectators and the wider public."

Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, said: "I don't think the rioting will impact the Olympics.



"The Olympics is, overwhelmingly, a domestic event. British people won't be put off from visiting the Olympics in Stratford because a year earlier shop windows were broken in Hackney."



A Home Office spokesman said: "The focus of the Government and everyone involved is to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympics Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy.



"Our plans already take into account the need to cope with the risk of disorder but we will look at any lessons from these terrible events."

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