Is it just me, or is the Olympic Games bad news starting to come thicker and faster?
Our own news item today says this day will be the United Kingdom’s biggest peacetime transport challenge, with a record number of bodies moving through Heathrow (including 335 athletes already en route) which will break the previous record of 233,562. According to Olympics officials, the busiest day for arriving athletes will be 24 July when 1,262 athletes and coaches come through Heathrow Airport.
Our story also points to welcoming personnel sitting behind a dedicated bank of pink, branded booths complete with accreditation technology that will allow registered participants to register immediately on setting foot in the United Kingdom “and go straight to the Olympic Village in East London”. Forgive me, but how does one go "straight” from Heathrow to East London?
I know my default position is deep, deep cynicism (three decades of being fed BS by PR people does this to hacks), but I fear the worst. I am sure the sports events themselves will be superb (although the jury is out on the opening ceremony) but I am extremely worried about the climate of fear that pervades these Games. That security focus combined with a less than ideal transport system could leave a lot of spectators seeing nothing but the queues in front of them.
The last few days have revealed that 3,500 less-than-chuffed squaddies will be called up to plug the gap for 3,500 security staff that security firm G4S has failed to provide. Is this really a good idea? Have you ever been patted down by a professional soldier who has learned his stop and search skills in Helmand Province? I suspect they will be - how should I put this - thorough? And if you have spent good money on the tickets, more money on the transport and arrive late, only to be delayed still further by queues and a stranger who wants to feel you up more thoroughly than you would like, I can foresee tempers fraying.
And if LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) has used the same professionalism and careful judgement to source other services as it has with G4S, how confident are you about the rest of the outsourced arrangements? After all, it’s all outsourced, isn’t it? Every service provided by LOCOG will be outsourced. Security, it should be said, isn’t like fairy cakes, is it? It doesn’t matter if the fairy cakes run out. But it matters a lot if a terrorist does sneak something nasty into a stadium! The sourcing of the security service should have been the most important thing on the shopping list - which is why I’m so worried about everything else.
But there is one fact that should give us enormous confidence, and that is the identity of the bloke who is running all this. His name is Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of LOCOG, and he joined in 2006. I’ve met him and he seems a sharp one. He certainly has the right pedigree. His background is, er, investment banking.
So that’s all right then!