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Al-Qaida to Occupy: UK preps Olympics security

Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images

British Home Secretary Theresa May speaks at the Olympic and Paralympic Security Conference at The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London Wednesday.

LONDON -- A range of security challenges threaten London’s 2012 Olympics from Islamic extremist and right-wing terrorists to cybercriminals and “encampment style protests,” Home Secretary Theresa May said Wednesday.

The British government has strengthened its policies toward Occupy-style protests ahead of the games, May told a conference on security in London.


May also called on organizers to ban tents and related equipment from games venues, and advocated a “rapid follow-up action by the police … using all available powers to remove encampments and equipment” if protesters did get through. 

Anti-capitalists protesters have been camped outside London's St Paul's Cathedral since October as part of the international movement inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest.

“I have stressed to the police that they must act swiftly in support of London 2012 organizers … should the receive a complaint (of an Occupy-style protest),” she said at a conference organized by defense think tank RUSI.

Attractive target
Four billion around the world were expected to watch the Olympics on television, making it an attractive target for terrorists and protesters.

Scotland Yard and the Royal marines teamed up in a show of strength against terrorists who might target the Olympics, practiced high speed drills using helicopters and boats on the River Thames.

Despite the May’s comments, the police “had no plans whatsoever” to stop legal protests, Commander Richard Morris of London's Metropolitan Police said.

The threat of “aggressive camping” was one of the new and evolving threats to Olympic security, Professor Michael Clarke, RUSI’s director-general said.

The games will see the U.K.’s largest peacetime security operation and involve tens of thousands of security officials, with 13,500 military personnel, 12,000 police and 10,000 private contractors. 

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison of the UK Metropolitan Police will head up the security effort for the 2012 Olympics in London. He says the games will be the UK's largest peacetime security operation in the nation's history.

Al-Qaida and related jihadi groups, right-wing extremists and Northern Irish militants are also a threat, Robert Raine, the director of Olympic safety and security for the Home Office, said.

Dow Chemical sees more bad Olympics publicity

The issue of security is particularly relevant one to Olympics organizers. The decision to award the Olympics to London was announced on July 6, 2005.  Just a day later, London suffered its worst peacetime attack when four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters.

The U.K.’s alert level is expected to be raised to “severe” during the games, meaning that an attack is considered to be highly likely, officials said.