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The Globe and Mail

Security chief 'deeply sorry' for security guard shortage at Olympic Games

G4S chief executive Nick Buckles speaks during a parliamentary committee hearing in London July 17.


The head of security giant G4S Plc said he was "deeply sorry" for failing to deliver a sufficient number of security guards for the London Olympics.

"I'm very embarrassed about the situation," Nick Buckles told a British parliamentary committee Tuesday.

Mr. Buckles also acknowledged the scandal has been a humiliating shambles and he said his job is on the line. "It's not about me," he told the committee, adding that he remains determined to supply as many guards as possible.

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London-based G4S is one of the largest security firms in the world with more than 600,000 employees. The company has been under intense criticism for failing to train and supply 10,400 guards for the Olympics.

The company won a $440-million contract for security at the Games in 2008, which included providing guards and managing other security staff. Mr. Buckles told Games organizers on July 11 that the company had only trained 4,200 and would not be able to meet its commitment. G4S is also responsible for managing 13,000 other security staff.

The shortages have already had an impact. Security at a cycling event Tuesday had to be staffed by police when G4S guards failed to turn up. G4S guards have also failed to show up at venues and athlete hotels in Manchester and elsewhere this week.

"It's a moving target," Mr. Buckles told the committee when asked how many guards G4S will be able to provide. He added that the company hopes to come up with 7,000 for the Games.

Mr. Buckles told the committee the contract was hugely complex and it had been changed substantially last December. Prior to then, G4S was responsible for supplying 2,000 guards and managing most of the remaining security staff. In December, Games organizers reviewed security measures and increased G4S's share of guards to 10,400. "We didn't know we were going to have the upsurge," he told the committee.

By April some concerns emerged about whether G4S could meet its commitments. However, Mr. Buckles said he did not know the company was so far behind until July 3 when he got a call from the company's chief operating officer. The call "was a complete and utter shock," Mr. Buckles said, adding that he returned to Britain immediately to address the problems.

He said he told Games officials about the issues but insisted that it was still not clear the company would fail to deliver on its target. That became clear on July 11, he said. At that point, Mr. Buckles said he told a meeting of Games organizers that G4S would not be able to fulfill its contract.

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The government has had to fill in the gap by providing 3,500 soldiers. That is in addition to 7,000 soldiers already deployed for the Games.

The scandal is a far cry from just a few months ago when Mr. Buckles and other G4S executives were boasting about their plans for the Games. During an investor conference in May, Mr. Buckles and Ian Horseman, the company's managing director for the Games, spoke at length to investors about the company's plans for the Olympics and how it hoped to use the event as a springboard to attract other business, such as Formula One races, the 2016 Olympics and soccer's World Cup.

"Beyond 2012 what we're doing is creating a global events practice," Mr. Horseman told the conference. "We want to and are starting to provide services to certain key international accounts. These are large organizations, both public and private sector organizations like Formula One and the United Nations that own a series of events across the globe and are interested in master services type agreements with us to provide consistency of service across the globe."

Even as late as July 6, Mr. Horseman told a reporter that G4S was managing the London Games so well, the company could provide security for two Olympics at the same time.

The company also expected to earn about $16-million from the London Olympic contract.

Now all of that appears to be in shambles. G4S is expecting to lose up to $80-million on the Olympics because of its inability to supply guards. Meanwhile, the company's share price has plunged more than 10 per cent on the London Stock Exchange in the last few days and there are calls by investors for Mr. Buckles to resign.

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