The Guardian has today reported on growing concerns over the effects that the 2012 Olympic Games security strategy will have on the UK. Londoners have long anticipated a summer of visible, increased security – but what assurances are being made that the security will disappear when the athletes go home?
Scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints have all been planned as part of the Olympic security strategy. In addition, Londoners and Olympic tourists can look forward to seeing an aircraft carrier that will permanently be docked on the Thames; surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies; unmanned drones that will hover above the stadiums; RAF Typhoon Eurofighters; a thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents; and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, 5,000-volt electronic fence.
Although there is still four months to go until the Games begin, some of the surveillance strategy has already begun. The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) last year confirmed that it would operate security checks on vehicles entering the Westfield Shopping Centre due to its close proximity to the Olympic Park. The vehicle screening began in September 2011 and is planned to continue for a full year.
In December Big Brother Watch also warned about “lazy policing” that included lumping public order issues, such as the Occupy movement, with serious national security concerns which would only undermine the public faith in the police and risks trivialising some very real threats to the UK.
Londoners and the UK as a whole need reassurances from LOCOG that the security strategy will not get out of hand. There needs to be clear and transparent mechanisms in place which highlight how data that is collected, from biometrics, scanners and CCTV cameras, will be used and stored and for how long.
The Olympic Games is set to be an amazing event that will bring hundreds of thousands of tourists and the sporting elite to the UK. The security of all involved should be of the upmost importance; however it would be an indictment on this country for the lasting memory of the Games to be one of biometric ID and unprecedented levels of surveillance.