With the London Summer Olympics just two months away, all eyes are turning to security and U.S. officials and corporate execs advising Scotland Yard say that there is a good chance that a lone “active shooter” could try to disrupt the games.
Matthew Bettenhausen, a former Department of Homeland Security official now in charge of security at AEG Worldwide, owner of a major London Olympics venue, the O2 arena, host to basketball and gymnastics, said a shooter is “a realistic possibility.”
Briefing U.S. officials, business leaders and foreign diplomats at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, Bettenhausen also raised the possibility that Irish nationalists could attack, possibly against the London Underground with an explosive device. He said that there has been a “resurgence of Irish nationalism.” He is confident, however, that O2 will be a “hardened target” difficult for a terrorist to penetrate.
His comments signaled the beginning of a worldwide campaign to alert those attending the games to brace for tough security. One tip he offered to Americans readying a trip: Don’t bring backpacks to the events.
Besides the games themselves representing a fat target, VIPs in attendance also raise the level of concern. Officials expect 120 heads of state and 10,500 athletes at the games.
Bettenhausen, however, said that London won’t turn into an unfriendly armed encampment. He said that the city wants the Olympics to be a “blue games” event, meaning that police and not military will be assigned the public security role.
What’s more, he said that the city will be prepared and practiced for the needed security because the Queen’s Jubilee, also a potential terrorist target, will have just taken place ahead of the July 27-August 12 games.