Securing the Olympics

London 2012 Olympics
London 2012 Olympics

When the security role at the London Olympic Games came up, Wainwright was torn by a calling to do something patriotic versus carry on where she was on the eBorders project for Raytheon. Knowing the games was a one off, combining her twin interests of sport and security, she applied, and after a six interview process, was appointed to look after corporate security. There were two distinct parts to security of the games, operational security and security of Locog, the organising committee.

Wainwright explains how she looked after the cyber threat to the games from Locog's perspective, the training and awareness of the 200,000 workforce, and for the latter part of the planning stage, ‘owning' data protection. Physical security of the corporate estate from which the organising committee were operating also came under her jurisdiction.

The biggest challenge was the insider threat, particularly the 70,000 volunteers ‘employed' in the loosest sense. Many were screened out after background checks, but Wainwright notes how in business you'd have more control selecting individuals and the right to check their background, but volunteers offering their time – there's only so much you can put upon them. Intensive monitoring would impact the experience. “It was a sporting event with a layer of security - not a security event with a layer of sport, and it was really important that we kept that in mind. It was about trying the get the balance between assessing the threat and allowing people to have a really positive experience.”

At the opening ceremony, for example, Wainwright had to deal with auditioners; artists ‘twirly baton throwers', gymnasts, dancers, singers. “To assess what their agenda was outside of wanting to be part of it was very challenging. There were common measures that we put in place, primarily around monitoring. We looked at those areas that were extremely risky, so perhaps a volunteer would have access to one of the VIP lounges; we were able to hone in on those individuals more.

“We had a finite amount of time and money, and how to spend that wisely was one of the biggest challenges. So we focussed on high risk and high impact areas, eg broadcast. There's a balance between reputation and security - we were charged with safe and secure games. To have tampered with Usain Bolt's timing for instance, may have caused them to run that race again which would have affected the reputation of London hosting the event.

 “There were people who caused concerns to law enforcement trying to participate in the games, whether purchasing tickets or getting a job, but the measures that we had in place clearly worked.

“Sir Ian Johnson, director of security, would say, “You can be anyone as long as you've got a ticket, you've got a legitimate right to be there.” Our job was to make sure that the people there had no hidden agenda. You could have just got out of prison, you could almost be Osama Bin Ladin, as long as you didn't have a bomb and you had a ticket.  

“Torch-bearers were nominated. Any one of those could have had a chequered past, and we would have to assess whether they did as they were running with the Olympic flame. The whole thing was televised so it could have been a great opportunity for someone to use that platform to advocate something.”

Wainwright says that early on they established what type of information mattered the most. They had to project forward, considering information that didn't exist.

“In 2009 we didn't have the security overlays for 2012. We were allowed to build from scratch, and I was working with the best in the country in security, and operational security.”

We were all empowered to take part in the Olympics in a much broader way than just security.” Seb Coe stood on stage and said: “This will be the best professional experience of your life,” and Wainwright says, “It absolutely was, very rewarding. I learnt so much.”

Jane Wainwright is Co-founder of the Women's Security Society


SC Webcasts UK

Sign up to our newsletters

FOLLOW US