Britain put an extra 3,500 military personnel on standby Wednesday to protect venues at the London Olympics, after a private contractor acknowledged it may not be able to provide enough guards on time.
The contractor, G4S, had been enlisted to provide the bulk of the 13,200 private security guards across 100 venues, but said in a statement that it may not hit its target due to problems supplying staff.
The company has insisted that it still hopes to be able to supply the guards, but Britain's government is putting the troops on alert to be quickly deployed if the contractor cannot meet its obligations.
A person briefed on the government's planned response, who demanded anonymity because the move has yet to be announced publicly, said the troops are being prepared after G4S acknowledged its problems in talks with London's Olympic Organizing Committee and Britain's government.
"This has been an unprecedented and very complex security recruitment, training and deployment exercise, which has been carried out to a tight timescale," G4S said in a statement. "We have encountered some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling over the last couple of weeks, but are resolving these every day."
The firm said it accepted "that the government has decided to overlay additional resources." It was not clear what, if any, penalties the company would face if it failed to meet its contract.
In Britain's mammoth Olympics security operation, 7,500 troops are already being deployed at venues and 6,000 more had previously been put on stand-by to provide a range of security duties. If all military personnel — including the extra forces — were deployed, the total would be 17,000 — dwarfing the 9,500 troops Britain currently has on the ground in Afghanistan.
About 12,000 police, Typhoon fighter jets, helicopters, two warships and bomb disposal experts are also part of the vast program aimed at securing the Summer Games.
"The government has been clear that as part of a civilian and police-led overall security operation, militarypersonnel will be playing a key role in providing venue security for Olympic sites ahead of and during the Games," Britain's defense ministry said in a statement.
Government officials said final details of the extra troops being put on stand-by would be publicly confirmed Thursday in a statement to Parliament by a top defense official.
London's Olympic Organizing Committee said in a statement that the security plan was "big and complex, but we have the best brains in the security business working on this — Home Office, Metropolitan Police, MoD (Britain's defense ministry) and (the) world's largest private security business."