Olympic security: Baroness Neville-Jones speech to RUSI conference

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Baroness Neville-Jones, minister for security, gave this speech on 25 November, 2010. This version is as written, not as delivered.

Good morning. I would like to thank RUSI for bringing us together today. I am delighted to be here and it’s good to be joined by an audience with such a wide range of expertise.

There are 610 days to go until the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I hope you feel as much excitement about that number as I do. Just 610 days until the UK welcomes the world and shows the best of itself in celebration of sport, culture, community and friendship.

The Games

Just the numbers that make up the Olympic and Paralympic Games are impressive:

  • More than 14,000 athletes from 205 countries
  • More than 10 million tickets
  • 24,000 accredited members of the media

I read recently that among the many things LOCOG will need are:

  • 800 basketballs
  • 6000 paper archery targets
  • 258 head protectors for tae-kwon-do.
  • By the sound of it, they will also need a very big shopping trolley

The 17 days of the Olympics and the 12 days of the Paralympics, and all the events that will go on around them, require a level of logistical planning and co-ordination not seen here before. The UK hosts many major events every year - our reputation for this is well-established - but the 2012 Games will surpass anything even we have done before.

2012 will also be Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, itself a cause for national pride and celebration. Britain will be open for business as usual with regular events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and the Wimbledon Tennis Championships all taking place as normal… although I did have a word with the Palace, and they agreed to have the Royal Wedding next year rather than in 2012!

The security landscape

As the Minister responsible for Olympic safety and security, I would like to say a few words about our preparation for a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games.  But before I do, I think it is worth considering the overall security landscape that the Olympic programme is operating within.   
No-one can forget the terrible events in London the day after we won the right to host the Games in 2012. As a nation, we continue to face a threat level of SEVERE.  We expect this threat to remain come the summer of 2012, and the events in Mumbai, Lahore, Detroit and of course in this country last month are a sobering reminder that the threat continues to evolve.

But we have responded to this threat head-on.  I believe the United Kingdom has the finest police, security and intelligence agencies in the world, and I express my gratitude and admiration towards them. It is our duty to support them, and this Government’s highest priority is the security of this country.

The Prime Minister set up the National Security Council, which met within hours of us taking office and has met weekly since. And we immediately began drawing up a National Security Strategy and undertook a Strategic Defence and Security Review. Together, these underpin the Government’s strategic decisions about our security, setting out what we will achieve and how we will do it. They direct national security policy, capabilities and resources for the next five years.


Our priority is to keep the UK, its citizens and visitors here safe. That is recognised in the first objective of the National Security Strategy: to ensure a secure and resilient UK. The Games - an iconic, global event where audience figures reach the billions - are a major milestone within the scope of this strategy. They should be a peaceful celebration of sporting achievement and cultural celebration; they are not a security event. Nevertheless, this Government will be judged by their success; the UK’s reputation is riding on it, and they must be enjoyed safely and securely.

We are not daunted by this task. We have considerable experience of securing large events, and existing people and processes are very capable. Our approach is brought together in one overarching Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security Strategy to which all partners are working.

The principal tenet of this strategy is that planning and spending are driven by risk analysis and intelligence. I cannot overstate the importance of this point. Every decision taken about the safety and security of the Games is based on risk mitigation, underpinned by a comprehensive process for assessing this risk.

This process - the Olympic Safety and Security Strategic Risk Assessment - is based on the methodology of the National Risk Assessment. It involves expertise from a wide range of Government departments and agencies.

We are today publishing an unclassified version of this Risk Assessment. As you would expect we will not divulge the details of these risks; to do so would be obviously counter-productive. But what we can do is open up the methodology behind our decision-making.

The Risk Assessment informs strategic level decision making by identifying and prioritising risks and the work required to mitigate them or the potential consequences. The Assessment is refreshed regularly and we have a process to swiftly assess any new threat or hazard that may require immediate action, whether that is to change our current work or commission new activity. This flexibility is crucial.

Illustrative of our approach is the way we are assessing individual venues. The Games will take place nationwide in more than 30 venues, and there are dozens of non-competition venues to consider as well. Each of these has been subject to a risk assessment that looks at factors such as the number of people who will attend, whether VIPs are likely to be there, how long events will last, whether it is a temporary or existing venue, and a host of other features. This informs the decisions we need to take about security to ensure each venue has a proportionate level of protection. And we must balance this against the need for visitors and spectators to be safe and secure without feeling like security is detracting from their experience.

Audit and Review

As the Government that will be in place when the 2012 Games take place, it has been essential that we assure ourselves that planning for Games safety and security is on track and will deliver the right outcomes. One of my first tasks was to instigate an Audit and Review of the Olympic Safety and Security Programme, which took place over the summer. I will take a few moments to share the findings of this with you now.

The principles of the multi-agency Olympic Safety and Security Strategy were validated; planning should continue to be based on them. These include the risk-based method that I have talked about. Our planning takes into account not only the need to manage the threats posed by serious and organized criminals, volume crime, natural hazards and public order. Risks can also arise from areas other than terrorism.

The work the government are doing with our parties involved in the organization of the games dopes not of course focus only on the Games themselves. We have to ensure that high levels of protective security are in place in the construction phase and in the run up to the Games. That means being confident about eliminating the potential vulnerabilities such as those posed by void spaces in the pipework of buildings- to give you an example of the detail involved. We must not build in risk. On the contrary, we aim to design it out. Security has been consciously built into the design of the Olympic venues and their buildings and the techniques involved will themselves be a valuable legacy from the Games.

A close watch is kept now on the credentials of the work force and those having access to the sites. It has not been possible and will not be possible for anyone without accreditation, which itself involves a checking process - to gain access to the Olympics sites at any stage. Physical security protection has is also being planned for all the entry routes and the connecting transport arrangements. We are well aware that security has to be seamless and end to end. A specific Olympic intelligence capability is already in place in advance of the Games which will grow with time, allowing us to identify the threats and dangers now, plan operational responses and give us the capacity for disruption.

An extensive and detailed plan is being put in place for the policing of the Games. This has to involve not only how the Games will be policed over the many days of the Olympics and the Paralympics, but the training that has to underpin this capability and the logistical arrangements that will support daily deployments and the proper integration of policing with the intelligence flow. You will hear more today from both Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison and Commander Bob Broadhurst on the policing demand profile, VIP protection- and many other aspects. I am not going to steal their thunder. Suffice it for me to say that the police in this country are well experienced in the area of policing large events. In this case it is the sheer scale and length of time over which the Games takes place which constitutes the exceptional challenge. Our approach has been to combine well established techniques - the Olympics are not a moment for experiments in novelty- combined with what we have learnt about risk management over the last decade and what technology can offer us, especially in the way in which we integrate all aspects of the security effort.

So far there have been three of the five anticipated versions of the overall Concept of Operations to which those involved have access and which lays out in detail how the strategy is to be delivered, setting desired outcomes against which policing and security generally is planned. The arrivals to the Games, those people we will welcome from abroad to this country have also to be planned for: for the sake of their safety and ours. The process of entry clearance and accreditation will be well ahead of time to ensure efficiency of delivery as well as national security. UKBA will do as much of this as is possible before members of the Games family reach our shores.

At the other end of the scale are the Community aspects in this country. We want as many people as possible to have a sense of positive involvement in the Games. The good will of the inhabitants of the boroughs in which the main venue is located is important in its own right. It is also a security asset.This applies across the country.

We are planning for a faultless Games. Obviously. But we must also plan for emergencies. Lessons learned from recent emergencies are obviously relevant. We have taken on board the need for the blue light services to be able to work together and for them to have reliable and uninterrupted communications. The capability of the Airwave network is being expanded and strengthened - to cite but one example of measures being put in place. Planning here of course links into broader national security risk management.

Having conducted the Audit and Review, a number of recommendations emerged for further work which have been agreed and which will take their place on the critical path which has been established between now and Games’ end. Among other things, we shall focus on getting the level of security right at the so called “parallel events” - those activities running alongside the official Games which will add so much to peoples’ pleasure. These can be expected all over the country and especially in London. They can take the form of Big Screen events. Street parties, local festivals- and so on. Variety will be a characteristic. The locations will be various too. Some temporary, some permanent and they will be attended by audiences ranging from the hundreds to the thousands. Making sure that these occasions, which should be fun, are also not vulnerable is also at the forefront of our planning.
We can expect a high level of interest in our security arrangements from all involved organizations and many participating countries. I spoke to the International Olympic Committee at their recent meeting in London and we will liaise in detail with the security authorities of participants to ensure understanding of and confidence in our safety and security arrangements.

None of these complex arrangements can be relied upon to work as designed unless we have out command, control and coordination right. To this end a rigorous testing and exercising programme is about to start involving all levels of management and responsible parts of government- right to the top.

We have already held a number of successful exercises, most notably Exercise Citius Torch in July which brought together around 200 of those who will perform key roles in the Games. To build on the success of this and other exercises, a National Olympic Exercise Programme will be developed. This programme will design and run exercises to test our procedures in a range of scenarios including counter terrorism and more conventional crisis management.

We also need to do more on cyber. Cyber threats may come from a number of sources. Currently the most likely threat is cyber-enabled ticketing fraud and work is already underway to protect against this, such as LOCOG’s education activity and the activity of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Podium. The Office of Cyber Security is developing an action plan to make sure that the activity already going on, particularly at a national level, is effectively co-ordinated and focused to make sure the Games, whilst obviously an attractive target, are not an easy target.

And this does not apply just to cyber threats. Organised crime and fraud that targets the Games will not be tolerated, and the ODA, LOCOG, police service and the Government are working together to clamp down on any such activity. We will take this position at Games-time as well: there is no place at the Games for ticket touting, theft or any other type of crime.

My Audit and Review was not intended to set the Olympic safety and security budget; but it has directly informed the work to establish this budget as part of the cross-Government Spending Review. Olympic safety and security is a priority for the Home Office; work to set the right budget for it continues.

Let me be clear; whilst, like almost every area of public spending, I am in no doubt that efficiency savings can and should be made in our security plans, we will not countenance unacceptable levels of risk and this will be reflected in the funding. We will share the revised budget figure with you in the next few weeks.

Summing up

So there is much to do, although we have a very good platform to continue progressing. The next six months will be crucial as our plans mature and begin transitioning into operations. Further challenges between now and July 2012 will inevitably arise and we will therefore continue to constantly monitor the security landscape.

One of the key areas for the Home Office in the next 12 months is the assurance of security plans. The questions we will be asking - of ourselves and of our partners - are:

  • Will existing or new capabilities meet the risk?
  • Will the operational plans work?
  • Is the security plan compatible with the broader operation of the Games?

We must ensure the answer to those questions is ‘yes’. As well as our own assurance work, we will look to those working with us - including an independent scrutiny panel chaired by Sir David Omand which provides an objective critique of our plans - to make sure our work will deliver what we need it to. Ministerial attention is also at a high level - the Home Affairs Olympics and Paralympics Cabinet sub-committee which is overseeing security arrangements for the Games meets at least monthly and both the Home Secretary and myself sit on this.

I visited the Olympic Park recently to see for myself the way our plans are already being put into operation, integrated with those of the Olympic Delivery Authority and LOCOG. The ‘Secured By Design’ principles that are being implemented are ground-breaking, creating an environment that has safety and security built in. The level of integration and partnership working between the key agencies of Government, police and private sector is both impressive and inspiring; these relationships will be the cornerstone of success at Games-time. 

I am heartened that no-one involved underestimates the task ahead and that there is an effective partnership in place to deal with it. I have every confidence that come September 2012 we will realise our shared vision of an inspirational, safe and inclusive Olympic and Paralympic Games.