Olympic security contractor regrets shortfall

A member of the British military stands guard over the Thames River ahead of the Olympic Games in London.
CBS News

Olympic athletes are scheduled to begin arriving in London on Monday.

With two weeks to go before the games begin, organizers have been stunned to learn that one security contractor has come up thousands of employees short.

The 2012 Olympic Games will be staged in dozens of venues over a vast area in and around London, and they'll need an equally vast security operation to keep them safe. Key are 13,000 British soldiers and marines, the largest domestic mobilization since World War II. There will also be fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone for small planes, and missiles set up on apartment buildings.

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There was supposed to be another army of more than 10,000 civilian security guards too, supplied by a private contractor G4S, but suddenly last week, the company announced it could not deliver.

CEO Nick Buckles said: "It's a very complex process to recruit and deliver that many people in quite a short period of time."

The original contract was for 2,000 G4S guards. Then, last December, after advice from U.S. law enforcement, that figure ballooned to more than 13,000, and G4S simply couldn't keep up.

"It's down to G4S, we should have...we are contracted to deliver staff. We should have done that," Buckles said.

It's a big blunder on a sensitive issue. This month, seven years ago, London won the 2012 games. The very next day, suicide bombers killed 52 people on a bus and the London subway.

So G4S' announcement put the government on the defensive. Their "plan B" is more troops. That means another 3,500 soldiers to keep the games secure.

Government officials say there is no specific terrorist threat against the Olympics. In fact, organizers are concerned about something else: The weather.

This has been the wettest summer in the U.K. since records began, and the forecast is for more of the same.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."