- In early January it was revealed that security procedures in place at the Olympic Park have been successful in stopping 90% of explosives penetration exercises. Whilst this was portrayed as a positive move and trumpeted a high success rate, numerous observers immediately and accurately noted that this means a 10% failure rate – so in spite of security measures applied at least one dummy device made it onto the site, which is already in pre-games lockdown mode.
- On 13 January it was further revealed that a lorry carrying 20kg of ammonium nitrate (a component for so-called fertilizer bombs) was passed as okay by a canine detection team. It was later intercepted by a manual search.
These incidents have attracted predictable levels of criticism. Penetration testing is however normal procedure and the aim is of course to show up any vulnerabilities in the...
The issue of the dogs, meanwhile, may be related to the reported vulnerability. Currently one of the identified weaknesses in the security plan is the availability of explosives search dogs, which at any rate have comparatively limited working spans due to tailing off of attention and interest, particularly in hot weather. A large amount of the armed forces’ search capability is expected to be recovered from Operation HERRICK (Afghanistan) to support the peak period of the Olympics, although this has not been confirmed, and the absence of the valuable working dog assets would come during the peak fighting season there.
These stories show how the authorities continue to have to battle between providing security and making the games into a bleak, fortress-like affair. This is a function with diminishing returns, especially as we continue to consider that the most attractive place for an explosive incident remains away from the main Olympic site. Within the capital main possible targets of concern include overland and underground stations, trains, buses, outdoor events (such as the new venue at Potter’s Fields by Tower Bridge and the Mayor’s office), and shopping centres – although it should be noted that Westfield Stratford does have its own explosives search dog capability, which mitigates the threat there and through the adjacent high-speed rail station.