Olympics headache

LONDON - As British police struggled to contain demonstrators at the G20 summit in London last week, organisers of the 2012 Olympics picked up tips ahead of "probably the highest risk Games to be held".

The London Games are expected to attract not only many world leaders but also 500000 spectators a day and will act as a magnet for protest groups keen to publicise their message in front of a global television audience running into billions.

The G20 meeting of the world's most advanced and emerging economies was described by London's Metropolitan Police as their most complex and challenging operation to date but it was all over in little more than 48 hours.

The 2012 Games, lasting more than two weeks in July and August, are predicted to be Britain's biggest security peacetime operation.

Olympic organisers attending police presentations were advised on managing public order, gathering intelligence, command and control, and protection.

Threats to recent Games have mainly involved domestic groups such as the Greek November 17 guerrilla organisation which was dismantled just before Athens 2004.

Britain faces a number of potential threats, one of the most high-profile being from al Qaeda after the country's support of US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

London has been a victim of militants in the recent past. In July 2005, four young British Islamists carried out suicide bomb attacks killing 52 commuters on the capital's transport network, a day after the city was awarded the Games.

The country has since been on severe threat level, the second highest status.

"The fact that we know that a potential attack could be imminent and that we have remained at a severe status level for a considerable period of time means that there is every risk that we [London] could be targeted," security expert Will Geddes, chief executive of International Corporate Protection (ICP), said.

"At this particular time and moment we are probably the highest risk Olympic Games to be held."

Lawmakers and security experts have accused the government of not doing enough to protect the 14000-plus athletes, the spectators and venues. - Reuters