Ministers held their daily Cobra meeting this morning to check the progress of the Olympic preparations, with just three days before the opening ceremony. Following the meeting, Jeremy Hunt released a statement – about 15 minutes after the Crown Prosecution Service announced the latest charges in its phone hacking investigation – which started by describing how London 2012 ‘remains very much on track’.
The statement continued to describe the arrival of the athletes, praise for the organisation of the Games from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, and the rising numbers of staff provided by beleaguered security firm G4S.
Anyone who wasn’t immersed in the phone hacking charges might still not have reached the point in the press release where it said:
‘However, ministers decided that we should deploy the additional 1,200 troops that were put on standby last week.’
Jeremy Hunt and Locog are insisting this lunchtime that this is nothing to do with G4S’ last-minute recruiting prowess – although it’s also worth remembering that the firm disclosed last week that a proportion of the troops on standby are there specifically to fill the gaps of staff who fail to turn up at events – but that they want to ‘absolutely de-risk any aspect of the operation’. Locog chief executive Paul Deighton said: ‘The reason that we’ve chosen to deploy the extra 1,200 is, sure, the plan is to go from 6,000 [G4S staff] to 7,000, but we can’t be absolutely certain about anything with a temporary workforce.’
This is about whether the staff G4S has recruited will actually turn up. The company’s chief Nick Buckles told the Home Affairs Select Committee last week that it was his ‘expectation’ that G4S could provide 7,000 staff in time for the Olympics. Committee chair Keith Vaz remarked that ‘”expectation” is not a comforting word when we are dealing with the greatest sporting event in the world’, and queried whether these staff would even turn up, given only 30 out of 300 staff had arrived at a cycling event that week. It seems that Locog and ministers at this morning’s Cobra meeting were not sufficiently comforted, either.Tags: Jeremy Hunt, Olympics, UK politics