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Missiles on my apartment? London resident balks at Olympics security measures

LONDON - Brian Whelan, a 28-year-old journalist living in London, was probably expecting traffic chaos, hordes of tourists and seriously beefed-up security ahead of this summer's Olympics.

High velocity surface-to-air missiles perched atop his apartment building he did not foresee.

"People are quite shocked. I don't think anybody expected that the price you pay for hosting the Olympics is militarizing residential communities," he told msnbc.com.


Britain's military has told the 700-odd residents of Whelan's apartment development near the Olympic Park in east London that it is considering installing a missile battery on top of a tower within their housing complex to defend the 2012 Games this summer.

On Friday, residents in the private, gated flats in Bow, east London, got a leaflet warning them that along with the missiles, a team of 10 soldiers and police could be stationed at the building.

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The rooftop missile battery would be one of a number of extraordinary measures Londoners can expect during the high-profile sporting festival, including restrictions on road lanes for Olympic use and a security bill of more than a billion pounds ($1.6 billion).

It would be the first time such anti-aircraft weapons are deployed in London since the end of World War Two, shocking some in the Bow Quarter housing development, sited in a converted red-brick Victorian match factory.

"There was no consultation, no one knocked on the door," Whelan said. "You just wake up one morning and there's a leaflet telling you they are going to put missiles on the roof."

The defense ministry told Reuters in a statement it had chosen the former water tower because it offered "an excellent view of the surrounding area and the entire sky above the Olympic Park."

The tower was in fact "the only suitable site in this area for the HVM (High Velocity Missile) system," it added.

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Defense secretary Philip Hammond first announced the plans in November, saying Britain would follow the precedent set by previous Olympics such as the Beijing games in 2008 where surface to air missiles were stationed about half-a-mile south of its showpiece stadiums.

"As announced before Christmas, ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London during the Games," a Ministry of Defence spokesman told Sky News.

Whelan said the the government had yet to get back to him about his concerns, and no one was answering the Ministry of Defence telephone number provided on the leaflet dropped off at the building.

"The (Ministry of Defence) is not answering the mobile number. The consultation meant to meet with us is coming three days after troops arrive," he said. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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