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Soldiers ride an escalator as they arrive for duty at the Excel center at the London Olympic Games, 29 July, 2012. (KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)
Soldiers ride an escalator as they arrive for duty at the Excel center at the London Olympic Games, 29 July, 2012. (KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)

Olympic Postcard

The military’s role at the Games Add to ...

When we heard that the London Olympics was having some issues coming up with enough security personnel and would be using members of the military, I have to admit I didn’t think much of it.

So there will be soldiers on the periphery of the Games as a just-in-case strategy? No big deal.

What I didn’t expect, as a member of the media, was to have day-to-day dealings with the British military as we tried to navigate to and from the different events.

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The past few days, I’ve been at the rowing venue in Eton Dorney (about an hour outside of London) and beach volleyball, which is right down near Buckingham Palace. At both locations, it’s been fatigue-wearing members of the Armed Forces who have manned the security stations, which involves running the x-ray machines and going through bags much like at an airport.

That hasn’t been a huge problem. In fact, in my experience so far, the military members are friendlier and more knowledgeable than the other workers I’ve dealt with at the Games.

It is odd dealing with soldiers every day, though, and having them confiscate your apple juice (“no liquids, sir”) and rummage through your bags.

My sense is they’ve been kept away from the crowds to a large extent, which is why they’re behind the scenes at media entrances and other hidden locales. But on Monday, when I took a wrong turn at the cycling road race venue, it felt like I was in the middle of a military camp, complete with a giant meal hall and various orders plastered on the walls.

Not exactly what you expect when you attend the Olympics.

There have also been complaints from the military members’ families, as per The Independent, that their conditions are quite poor at the Games, which doesn’t surprise me given how quickly they needed to be brought in.

At least some of them are getting to see events as seat fillers.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle