London Olympic Games’ security is key to aiding the recovery of UK plc
With the UK teetering on the brink of a second recession in four years and Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King warning the road to recovery will be long and arduous, the economic impact of the Olympics is becoming more important than ever.
By Anna White
10:48PM GMT 02 Feb 2012
The event’s organisers and those involved are becoming increasingly excited that the Games could provide an economic growth spurt, albeit short-lived, to the UK’s shrinking economy.
Credit card company Visa, a sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics, has estimated UK GDP will be boosted by £750m of spending during the Games.
To say a lot is riding on the Games in terms of confidence and growth is an understatement, especially when Government has already invested £9.3bn.
A considerable chunk of this spending has gone on security. About 10,500 Olympic athletes from 205 national Olympic committees and 4,200 paralympic athletes from 170 national paralympic committees are flying in to the UK.
The busiest competition day will attract no less than 800,000 spectators to the various sites – of which there are 36.
The security issues are enormous. G4S, the world’s largest security company, has been drafted in to work alongside the authorities and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to combat the physical threat of terrorism.
The potential threat was put into sharp focus this week with the trial of a terror gang accused of plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange and the home of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.
On January 25 Theresa May, Home Secretary, spoke at the Olympic and Paralympic Security Conference organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). She declared the Government was “ready to take on the challenge of delivering a safe and secure Games. We need a security approach that’s robust but seamless. Visible but not intrusive, tough but intelligent… and that’s what we will deliver.”
It’s up to G4S to help deliver that vision. As the official London 2012 security provider it opened the doors of its new London 2012 Recruitment Centre on Thursday to launch one of the biggest hiring sprees drives in its history in conjunction with London Organising Committee of the Olympics.
The company is looking for about 10,000 security staff to work at the Games.
But the security threats facing the Games and the global businesses involved in the Olympics are not purely physical.
The plethora of companies with stakes in the event face cyber security attacks from five different camps. Gangs of financial criminals, espionage organisations (either state sponsored or corporate), so-called “hacktivists”, terrorists and those seeking out and out warfare.
Financially motivated gangs have already spotted the potential of the ticketing systems. With millions of people worldwide buying tickets and booking hotels and transport online, the massive bank of personal data this has created its a tempting target for hackers.
William Beer, information security director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, predicts a huge spike in spam and phishing emails in the build up to the Games.
“There’s no such thing as perfect security,” he said. To be as ready as possibly, the ODA has been running cyber-crime simulations, dealing with problems such as payment systems going down, attacks by hackers or crashing mobile phone networks.
It’s not just sports fans at risk of credit card fraud – there’s also a business to business problem. A huge flow of money is circling the Olympic Games between the ODA, sponsoring companies providing services and processing houses such as PayPal.
“Hotels, restaurants, bars and retailers are also at risk from the flood of foreign credit cards, many of which will not have the same security measures as the major global brands,” Beer said. For example, chip and pin could be rendered useless on many not-so-secure transactions.
Over the summer the UK witnessed the destructive power of social media. BlackBerry’s instant message service was used by thousands of rioters to organise the crowd violence that swept the country, as looters struck retailers such as Dixons.
Hacktivist organisations are also another a major threat to the Games as these ideologically-driven gangs could impact the integrity of the data used at the Olympics. If, for example, the time-keeping systems are attacked this will devalue the reputation of the corporates providing that service. Such scenarios are therefore reputationally costly for the businesses involved.
Also on the frontlines of protecting the Games is Cisco, which is providing the network infrastructure partially through a cloud service. Cisco’s involvement will also leave a another legacy on the UK economy.
Kim Smither, major games director at sports management agency Octagon, said: “This is the most connected Games ever. The technological infrastructure will live on after the event for both the public and businesses to benefit and ultimately drive growth for the UK economy.”
The financial benefits will not purely come visitors’ spending, but from the experience gained in information security and innovation – something which can be exported in the future to drive growth in a digital economy.