The UK has a global reputation for hosting major events. The country has hosted 123 major international athletic competitions in the last decade. Other events, like commemorations of the centenary of WWI, have also taken place.
These events are an important way to enhance the UK’s international standing. However, they can also pose a threat to national security.
Security procedures usually only make headlines when something goes wrong. With the exception of Manchester Arena in 2017, security professionals in the UK have successfully protected most major events in the last ten years. Learn more about threats at major events and how private security contractors can play a role in protecting UK national security.
Negative Press for Private Security Firms at the 2012 Olympics
The 2012 Olympics in London took place from 27 July to 12 August. On July 22 this year, the mayor of London will light a “legacy flame” as part of celebrations around the 10th anniversary of the games.
Legacy of the 2012 Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympics were a success by most measures. Great Britain won 65 medals, which greatly exceeded the goal of 48. Great Britain was third in the medal table rankings for its best showing in the modern era.
A recent survey showed that 95% of East Londoners believe that Olympic Park is an asset for the area. In the same survey, 79% of respondents felt that the games benefitted people in east London.
Security at the 2012 Olympics
The 2012 games took place during a period of heightened security alert due to terrorism. Attackers struck London the day after the city won the games in 2005. However, no major security events occurred during the Olympics.
The lack of incidents was a major relief after security scandals leading up to the start of the games. The U.S. reportedly had concerns about security plans. In response, the military stationed surface-to-air missiles on rooftops to protect major venues.
The largest problem was the failure of a private security firm to provide enough guards. The firm wasn’t able to fulfil its contractual obligations. Ministers decided to supplement security forces with military personnel.
The addition of 1,200 military members was to make up a shortfall of nearly 4,000 security guards that the private firm should have provided. The Ministry of Defence had already more than doubled the number of military personnel it estimated would be necessary for the Olympics.
2017 Manchester Arena Bombing
Weaknesses in national security processes became evident when a bomber successfully attacked Manchester Arena in 2017. Hundreds of people were injured and 22 people died in the attack, which targeted an Ariana Grande concert.
The Home Secretary established an independent public inquiry to investigate what had happened. The inquiry began in September 2021. Oral closing statements took place in March 2022.
Security Weaknesses at Manchester Arena
The first part of the inquiry focused on security for the arena. It concluded that arena security should have prevented or minimised the attack but failed to do so. Agencies responsible for security on the night of the attack included:
- The firm operating the arena
- A private security firm hired to perform crowd management and event security
- British Transport Police (BTP)
Greater Manchester Police had provided a counter-terrorism security advisor to the arena management company. The inquiry found that arena management, the private security firm, and BTP had all missed opportunities to stop or mitigate the bombing.
Changes to Security Procedures
Manchester Arena conducted its own security review three weeks after the bombing. Several changes resulted from the arena investigation and the public inquiry. For example, the arena has a new security manager and detection dogs. Training for risk assessment and counter-terrorism has improved.
New protocols are more forceful in encouraging staff to report any potentially suspicious persons or activity.
No Major Incidents at the Platinum Jubilee 2022
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee took place without any major security problems in the UK. The festivities occurred from 2 June to 5 June 2022.
Minor incidents included protesters invading the Mall during a parade and running into the Queen’s guards. A trespasser at Buckingham Palace was arrested.
The only news-worthy scandals involved the security arrangements for Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their children. Prince Harry wanted to be sure that the family would receive protection from the Metropolitan Police’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Unit. The agreement reportedly took weeks to negotiate.
This protection wasn’t guaranteed because Harry and Meghan stepped down from their royal duties in 2020.
Security for the Jubilee rested heavily on the Metropolitan police. Private security firms also took part. The government’s informational site noted that a range of visible and less visible security measures would be in place.
Smooth Preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games
The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from 28 July until 8 August in Birmingham. Durban, South Africa was the original host city. Durban was unable to fulfil its hosting duties due to financial problems.
The Commonwealth Games Federation reopened the bidding for host cities in 2017. Birmingham was the only official bid and will host the games.
Security Plans for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games
Security preparations have gone smoothly overall.
Each event venue will have a Security Co-Ordinator Inspector leading a specialist team. These inspectors have special training in planning the policing for major events.
More than 3,000 officers from West Midlands Police and other forces in the UK will be working around the clock. The officers come from departments including traffic, firearms, and counter-terrorism. Police dogs will also play an important role.
The threat from drones has emerged as a concern. West Midlands Police has a dedicated drone team that will be part of security operations.
Private firms are also providing security services for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Games Federation is choosing select firms as official providers of security services and personnel.
National Security and Major Events
The UK has a good track record overall for security at major events. Security professionals continue to learn from breaches that have occurred. Ideally, this makes them better able to prevent future tragedies and protect UK national security.
Your organisation could be a security services provider for these types of events. The UK dropped its World Cup bid, but the government’s strategic plan includes hosting almost 100 large sporting events in the next decade. Cultural, political, and business events are also possibilities.
Defence Contracts International can help you find the right tender opportunities. Our business intelligence solutions can help you prepare your procurement strategy and tender response well in advance.
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