Olympics Security Failure is ‘Humiliating Shambles,’ Boss Concedes
(CNN) — The head of G4S said Tuesday that the security contracting giant should not have agreed to provide 10,400 security guards for the Olympic Games, six days after it emerged that the company would not be able to do so. “We regret signing the contract,” Nick Buckles told furious British lawmakers grilling him 10 days before the Games begin.
The failure of a security contractor to deliver enough guards for the Olympic Games is “a humiliating shambles for the country,” the company’s director was forced to agree Tuesday.
Nick Buckles, the chief executive of security contractor G4S, was being grilled by British lawmakers furious at the fiasco 10 days before the Games open in London.
Buckles got his first indication that his company would be unable to fulfill its contract on July 3 and knew for certain it could not on July 11.
The company’s failure forced the government to call in 3,500 military personnel to help.
Hammered by Home Affairs committee Chairman Keith Vaz over saying he was “disappointed” about the failure, Buckles then said he was sorry.
Labour lawmaker David Winnick then laid into Buckles, insisting several times that the snafu was a humiliating shambles.
Buckles finally said he could not disagree.
G4S has a £284 million ($444 million) government contract to provide 13,700 security guards for the Olympic Games, but only 4,000 guards are trained and ready, says the Home Affairs committee, which is looking into security for the Games.
The staff members were supposed to be doing tasks including venue perimeter security, such as manning X-ray machines, searching people, searching vehicles and operating closed-circuit television systems, G4S said Sunday.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who is responsible for domestic security, was called to Parliament to answer questions from lawmakers on Monday after the fiasco.
She insisted that G4S actually had more than 20,000 accredited security staff members and that until last week, it appeared that they would have too many contractors rather than too few.
The Home Office said Monday that the contractor was suffering from a software problem, which meant it could not guarantee who would turn up where and whether guards had the right training.
G4S did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the accusation.
The Home Office also said that the extra immigration staff deployed at borders was properly trained, rejecting media reports to the contrary.
Athletes began arriving for the Games on Monday.
The Dutch women’s beach volleyball team sailed through Heathrow airport as it arrived in London, but not every athlete had such a smooth arrival.
American hurdler Kerron Clement’s bus got lost on the way from the airport to the Olympic village, he said, resulting in a four-hour-plus journey.
“Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee. Could we get to the Olympic Village please,” the world record holder said on Twitter on Monday. “Not a good first impression London.”
The drive should take about an hour.
The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said “the vast majority” of bus journeys had gone smoothly but conceded that “there may have been one or two journeys taking longer than expected.”
Heathrow airport expected a record number of passengers on Monday as athletes began to flood into the city for the Olympic Games, which start a week from Friday.
Immigration desks have extra staffers, Heathrow said Monday, amid fears of long lines to get into the country.
Retired border officials and retired police officers are among those being brought in to supplement immigration staff, the Home Office said.
Athlete arrivals are expected to peak July 24, with more than 1,200 competitors due on that day.
G4S said Saturday that it stands to lose up to $77 million after failing to recruit enough staff.
The airport, meanwhile, said Monday that it is deploying more than 500 volunteers who speak 20 languages among them to welcome athletes and officials.
CNN’s Jo Shelley, Jim Boulden, Dan Rivers, Stephanie Halasz and Erin McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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