London's Olympic security boss dismisses U.S. fear report

LONDON Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:42pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - The head of London's Olympic security dismissed as "rubbish" on Tuesday a media report that the United States was unhappy with arrangements for next summer's Games.

London's national Olympic security coordinator Chris Allison also said he had confidence in the private security firm tasked with guarding the inside of venues after it was revealed off-duty troops may have to be called in to help meet a shortfall in numbers.

Last week, the Guardian newspaper said the United States was planning to send up to 1,000 of its agents, including 500 from the FBI, to protect American athletes and diplomats.

But Allison told reporters he had since been to Washington and had liaised with a number of law enforcement colleagues and spoken to the FBI.

"There are no concerns over there whatsoever and the reports of the numbers coming over are grossly over exaggerated, so it's plainly rubbish," he said.

The U.S. embassy in London has also criticised the report, saying it was satisfied with security arrangements and rejecting suggestions of a diplomatic rift.

Allison said countries would be sending security liaison officers, as in other Games, but these were not protection officers and would not be armed.

"The basic planning assumption is that there will be no foreign armed personnel here," he said.

Allison said the current plan was for only a small number of British policemen guarding the Games to be armed, and reiterated his aim that the emphasis of the event should be on sport, not security.

"The planning assumption that we're working off at the moment is that the UK will be policed by the British police service .... the people empowered to carry guns, thankfully only a few of them, are the British police service."

Earlier this month, it was revealed more than 6,000 off-duty British troops, wearing civilian security uniforms, looked set to be used at Olympic venues to help meet an expected shortfall in the number of civilian guards.

The London Organising Committee (LOCOG) had appointed the private security firm G4S to recruit, train and manage 10,000 civilian guards to patrol inside the venues, but that number is likely to rise to up to 22,000.

The interior ministry is currently deciding on the exact number and mix of guards needed to cover 10 million person-hours of guarding the Games.

When asked if he had confidence in G4S, Allison said: "Yup, we work closely with them. The Games isn't going to be delivered by one person or one organisation, it's going to be everybody working together. A key part of that partnership will be G4S."

Britain remains on high alert of a terror attack despite its international threat level being lowered in July from severe to substantial, the third-highest level, meaning a terror attack is a strong possibility and might well occur without further warning.

It is ready to use missiles to protect the Games from airborne attack, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament last week.

Organisers are also wary of a potential threat from dissident Irish nationalists.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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