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UK military asked to cover 3,500 Olympic security worker shortfall

Just two weeks away from the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the British government has announced thousands of additional soldiers will be sent to provide security at game venues.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET: LONDON — Britain's military was asked to provide an 3,500 extra personnel for the Olympic Games with only 16 days to go before the opening ceremony, government sources told NBC News on Wednesday.

Private security contractor G4S conceded it may not be able to supply the numbers of guards — made up of certified security workers and temporary recruits — it had originally agreed.


A company statement said: "We have encountered some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling over the last couple of weeks, but are resolving these every day and remain committed to providing a security workforce for the start of the London 2012 Games.

"Our planning with [The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] and other security agencies allows for a variety of contingencies which have been reviewed in the build-up to the Games. We accept that the Government has decided to overlay additional resources," the statement added.

It would be potentially a major embarrassment for Olympic organizers who have insisted plans are in place to ensure the games is safe.

Matt Dunham / AP

In this May 3, 2012 file photo, Sergeant Craig from Britain's Royal Artillery regiment holds a high-velocity missile, or HVM, lightweight multiple launcher during a media event ahead of a training exercise designed to test military procedures prior to the Olympic period in Blackheath, London.

G4S has a contract reportedly worth almost $460 million to provide the personnel, many of whom are still being trained.

The military had previously been asked to provide a total of about 13,000 personnel, including up to 7,500 for civilian security at games venues. The remainder will be involved in military operations linked to games security.

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Sources told NBC News that some of the extra 3,500 will come from a contingency of 1,000 soldiers on standby for Olympic emergencies.

The news follows reports last month of serious concerns within the Home Office -- an equivalent to the Department of Homeland Security -- that G4S would be unable to meet its obligations for the Olympics.

In June, ITV News reported concerns at the effectiveness of security provided by G4S staff under training for the Olympics.

Simon Israel, the Home Affairs Correspondent for Channel 4 News, posted on Twitter that G4S would be fined $77,000 for each day it failed to provide the agreed number of personnel.

It is the largest British security operation carried out in peacetime.

Thousands of new recruits are being trained to operate x-ray machines, search vehicles and stand guard at Olympic venues across the country.

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Such is the scale of the operation; the training will continue right up until a few days before the opening ceremony.

More than 100,000 people applied for the 10,400 temporary jobs in what G4S had described as one of the biggest paid recruitment drives in Britain this century. Last week, Ian Horseman Sewell, managing director of G4S Global Events, told Reuters in an interview that the company was "absolutely on track to deliver". 

The issue of security is a 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.

Msnbc.com's Alastair Jamieson and Reuters contributed to this report. This story was first published by ITV News, the UK partner of NBC News.

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