LONDON – British police would not be able to cope with disturbances on the scale of August's riots if they occur during next year's London Olympics, the officer coordinating security for the Games said Monday.
Officers are holding off decisions on how to cope with security problems during the 2012 Games until the conclusions of a report on public order policing becomes available, said Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, the national Olympic security coordinator.
"If we were facing exactly the same as we were faced with on the Monday night (of the riots), with the resources we've got now, we still wouldn't be able to cope with it," he told reporters.
"Some work is being done to think about what we need to put in place in Games time," he said.
Gangs of youth rampaged through London and other major British cities in early August, burning and looting shops and buildings in the country's worst unrest since race riots in the 1980s. Hundreds of people were arrested for the violence. The disorder, which took place over four nights, came less than two weeks after London celebrated the one-year countdown to the opening of the games on July 27, 2012, with great fanfare.
Officials said Monday they would spend three million pounds ($4.7 million) to boost tourism on the back of the Games and restore the Olympic host city's tarnished image.
Culture, media and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt says the publicity campaign aims to "set the record straight" and show the world that the riots do not "stand for what the U.K. is all about."
The campaign will highlight the preparations for the 2012 Games, he said. Officials say that all major venues for the Games have been completed, and the 3 million pounds for the tourism campaign has been saved from funds remaining from the original 9.2 billion-pound budget.
Nevertheless, one of the security concerns was that parallel events held near Olympic sites could become "soft targets" that attract terrorists, Allison said. Authorities planning such events need to coordinate with each other to ensure there is enough security spread out across venues, he said.
"If there is a soft target 200 yards down the road from the main venue, and it's got a couple of Olympic rings over the top of it, that's where the baddies are going to go to," Allison said.
Police resources are stretched tight as a result of the government's budget cuts, he added.
The Home Office said lessons have been learnt from the riots and that Olympic security has been protected so that police could deliver a safe Games.