Britain beefs up Olympics security as if it’s going to war

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LONDON — Woe betide the hapless backpackers who stumble upon the Olympic Park in London’s East End this summer. They may feel the might of Britain’s biggest security operation since World War II come crashing down upon them.

Camping essentials like compasses and water bottles are just some of the items banned from Olympic venues in an attempt to avoid Occupy protests that have disrupted city centers and financial districts around the world.

Other prohibited items include oversize hats and excessive amounts of food, as well as the more traditional knives, guns and liquids in amounts over 3.4 fluid ounces.

The “security operation will be the [United Kingdom’s] largest ever peacetime logistical operation,” Home Secretary Theresa May said in outlining security plans for the Olympics earlier this year.

Anti-capitalist demonstrators are not the only ones targeted in the security effort, which will include the mobilization of 13,500 troops, more than the number on active duty in Afghanistan.

Alongside them in the $900 million operation — double initial cost estimates — will be 12,000 police officers, many drafted from other forces across the country, and nearly 24,000 venue security personnel working directly for the Olympic organizers.

The threat of attack by cyberterrorists, Irish rebels and militants linked to al Qaeda and Somalia-based al-Shabab has contributed to the increased security level.

“Like all Western countries, [Britain] faces a number of ongoing threats to our national security,” Mrs. May said.

“We know we face a real and enduring threat from terrorism, and we know that the games, as an iconic event, will represent a target for terrorist groups.”

Richard English, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said the likelihood of an attack by dissident Irish rebels is as great as one by Islamic extremists, but any attempt is likely to be on a small scale.

“I don’t think it will be a serious incident. There should be no crisis of anxiety that bombs will be going off every time Usain Bolt is running,” he said, referring to the Jamaican sprinter, a five-time world and three-time Olympic champion.

“What attracts terrorists is the magnifying effect of having thousands of journalists from all over the world looking for stories to cover.”

London has faced various terrorist threats in its recent history, with the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s and 1980s and al Qaeda more recently.

Military trial run

The military contribution to the security operation was given a trial run this week, with air defense missiles tested at six potential sites near the park.

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