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London-2012: Games Security

The Home Secretary has denied security at the Olympic Games is a "shambles" after another 3,500 soldiers had to be drafted in to bolster guard levels. Theresa May was forced to ask the Ministry of Defence to provide more troops after private contractors G4S admitted they did not have enough staff.

The Government found out about the exact shortfall on Wednesday and quickly had to boost the number of soldiers working on the Games to 17,000 - almost a fifth of the entire Army. The move, two weeks before the opening ceremony, puts Olympic arrangements under fresh scrutiny and is a major embarrassment for organisers, Locog. It follows from the closure of the M4, a key Olympic route, because of a damaged flyover and amid ongoing questions about border staff levels at Heathrow Airport.

Mrs May, in a Commons statement after Labour demanded an explanation from the Government, said she knew the country could rely on troops to deliver a safe Olympics. "The Government's overriding priority is to use all resources necessary to deliver a safe and secure Olympic Games and that's what the public and the House would expect," she said. "The security operation has been meticulously planned, it will be the largest and most complex security operation in this country since the Second World War."

In this photo released by the British MOD, a sniper with Royal Air Force Regiment Sniper, sights through his scope from inside an RAF Puma helicopter at RAF Northolt ahead of carrying out air security duties for Op Olympic, in London, Friday July 13, 2012. Royal Air Force Puma Helicopters and Typhoon fighter jets along with Royal Navy Sea King helicopters are arriving at RAF Northolt ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games to carry out air security. Aircraft that fail to comply with procedures within a restricted airspace zone around Olympic venues could be subject to "lethal force" from the military, it is revealed Friday.

Troops are being allocated 7,000 tickets for the dress rehearsals for the opening and closing ceremonies on top of the 10,000 Olympic and Paralympic tickets already assigned to them. G4S is expected to have its payment docked because of the problems but Mrs May said this was up to Locog, who agreed their contract. However, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the situation looked like another "Home Office shambles" and Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, described it as a "fiasco".

London Mayor Boris Johnson, speaking at the Olympic Park, insisted: "Everybody is concerned to put the final nails in place - we always expected loads of military and I think they'll do a great job. The key thing is that it's going to be a safe and secure Games."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond admitted increasing troop levels will put an extra burden on soldiers but promised they would be left out of pocket and would still receive their full leave.

The deployment comes as the Army reels from the announcement that it is losing 17 major units, including five infantry battalions, in its biggest restructuring for decades.

Assistant commissioner Chris Allison, head of Scotland Yard's security operation, has previously insisted the sporting event will be a "blue Games", despite the presence of the military and surface-to-air missiles being positioned near the Olympic Park. Security consultant Christian Cullen told Sky News it was "completely insane" to be enhancing military numbers now, after seven years' planning. Overall, a 23,700-strong security force will include a mix of military, private security guards and at least 3,000 unpaid London 2012 volunteers.

G4S said the security recruitment and training process had been "unprecedented and very complex" and admitted that it had encountered problems with its workforce. It said it was committed to keeping the event "safe and secure".

In May, the firm said as many as 100,000 people had expressed an interest in the 10,000 security jobs available and that it had already interviewed more than 80,000 for the roles. The private security firm contract is worth £284m from a £553m security budget, A further £600 has been allocated to the police operation but the Home Office hopes to deliver it for £475m.