New restrictions have been announced on what spectators will be allowed to take into Olympic sites, with “airport style” security now being expected. This includes restrictions on liquids. According to the new terms and conditions for Olympic ticket holders, items that cannot be taken into venues include:
- Food, except baby food
- Alcohol and soft drinks, except baby milk and medical supplies
- Liquid in containers over 100ml
- Bottles or glass containers
- Flasks and thermoses
- Fireworks, flagpoles, whistles and drums and other disruptive or potentially weapon-like material
This has raised immediate concerns over heat problems, with limits on items such as sunscreen, and long delays for security with no water. The restrictions apply to sites such as Lord’s and football stadiums which normally have much lower levels of security, even when hosting high-profile international games.
The measure is obviously driven by the perception of the threat from home-made liquid explosives as used in the 2006 planned airline plot. Whilst parts of al-Qaeda have since developed body-borne devices with very low metal content, this experience remains niche and difficult to deploy successfully. Whilst sensible on some levels, such security measures if implemented less than perfectly will rile visitors – as they often do at airports.
The current UK opinion is that visible and effective security does not just deter attacks, but that it actually lowers the overall threat level – in other words it is not a zero-sum game. Whilst this may be true, we continue to believe that any jihadist operation has always been far more likely to target transport or crowds outside stadiums, and so this measure will probably not affect any current attack planning. This is in line with al-Qaeda’s doctrine, and that of other groups, and matches the experience of sporting events that have been targeted to date (for example in Lahore, Bangalore, Delhi and Uganda). We assess that this remains much higher risk than an attack on the site itself, and recommend that this be considered when businesses are running resilience scenarios.