Met Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had said in his futuristic video briefing that the security operation surrounding the Olympic Games was to be the ‘largest peacetime deployment of police the country has ever seen’.
As one of the thousands of officers from around the country deployed to the games, did it live up to the hype?
Like I’d written before, I’d jumped at the chance to get involved with the Olympics and had been looking forward to going ever since our planning department had confirmed I’d been picked.
I’m happy to report that the experience itself itself exceeded all expectations.
My deployment lasted over a ten day period, starting off on Thursday the 26th of July with around sixty of us meeting in Birmingham to load onto a series of coaches.
At the pick up point a theme started that would continue over the course of the trip – being presented with food at every turn. Eating is something I’m pretty enthusiastic about so I had no issues with this and plunged into the sandwich bag with a true Olympic spirit.
Our officers were spread across university halls around the capital with my ‘serial’ – six officers and a sergeant – heading off to the Brunel University campus in Uxbridge, West of London not far from Heathrow.
Everything ran smoothly, we unloaded our huge baggage train and went off for a briefing with the Metropolitan Police who helped orientate us and brought us up to speed on the local lingo; ‘apples and pears’ apparently meaning ‘stairs’ and ‘Gregory Peck’ standing in for ‘cheque’.
Day one of the deployment proper had us up early and on a coach to one of the Met’s huge mustering points which they’d constructed at the the base of Battersea Power Station.
Like an incredibly well policed miniature city, the mustering point had all the facilities required for us to park up our vehicles, eat, collect radios and then receive our daily briefing.
It was only once we arrived at the mustering point that we got an idea of the scale of the operation – sat in the canteen were officers from every single force and parked outside were vehicles baring a huge variety of crests. Everyone was wearing slightly different uniforms, including one force who had stab vests apparently disguised to look like a jumper an elderly teacher might wear, but I think everyone was excited about being there.
As I’d said, eating was indeed a big part of the trip and I felt the Met did an excellent job in ensuring we could fill out our stab vests. The catering staff remained cheerful despite the never ending parade of hungry bobbies and the food wasn’t bad either.
Assigned to help out with the torch relay with the flame being brought down the Thames by barge, we then made our way to Westminster Bridge for a spot of foot patrol.
Perhaps having your photo taken by tourists gets a little tiring after a while but it was a novelty for us and so we spent a very enjoyable few hours chatting to the tourists and giving some rather ‘approximate’ directions before seeing the flotilla arrive and pass under us on its trip towards Tower Bridge.
Saturday was a day off with me taking the chance to see the end of the men’s road cycling by Buckingham Palace, Sunday then saw us start doing what we’d be tasked with for the bulk of our time in London – helping guard Team USA at their London training facility.
As always we started off with a generous breakfast at Brunel and then, probably not more than two hours later, arrived at the muster point in Wanstead for lunch before heading off to the Docklands where Team USA had taken over the University of East London campus.
It was our job to man the checkpoints around the perimeter and whilst it wasn’t particularly busy, I think it was quite a good posting.
Situated across the dock from London City Airport we could watch the planes land and gaze at the cruise ships docked down the quayside that the IOC had hired as accommodation for their staff.
Over the course of the week we found ourselves chatting to several of the Team USA staff who without exception were incredibly friendly and polite. I saw a few of the wrestlers, boxers, spoke to the shot put coach for a while and saw their entire basketball team trying to squeeze into a coach.
The highlight though was, without doubt, the catering. I know it sounds like the main thing I took away from the deployment was a little extra weight (partially true) but Team USA had taken over the canteen and granted us officers free access to it – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well and if anyone from Team USA is reading this, a big thank you to you all – every officer I spoke to was grateful for the grub!
Another highlight was getting to work with the Met officers, most of whom who were from Romford, who had been sent to help us out. I found it really interesting to exchange different views about the job and I had a great time exchanging police slang with them, learning slowly that ‘skipper’ was their word for sergeant and ‘guv’nor’ their equivalent of ‘gaffa’ or ‘boss’. They did a great job penetrating our thick Walsall accents too.
The final day of the deployment, Friday the 3rd, had us doing something slightly different as rather than heading to UEL, we instead went out to Wimbledon where the semi-finals of the men’s tennis were being held that afternoon.
Having spent a year living just down the road in Putney, I’d never actually been to Wimbledon but found it to be a lovely area and we had a great time standing outside Southfields Underground Station pointing people in the direction of the stadium.
When I signed up for the Olympics I wasn’t too sure how close I’d get to any of the venues but for our evening meal we got to go to the Wimbledon staff canteen, directly under Centre Court, and then wonder around the grounds which was a true privilege.
We saw Henman Hill/Murray Mound, watched a bit of the Murray match on the screens and posed for a few photos with the crowd before returning to the tube station to help direct the crowds back home.
Saturday was dedicated to traveling back to the West Midlands and it felt odd to be leaving, especially as having been so busy I think we all had the impression that we’d been in London for a lot longer than ten days. The shifts had been long – a good twelve hours a day – but enjoyable too so I didn’t hear anyone complaining.
Being down in London for the Olympics had been a superb experience and one of the most rewarding our my career so far.
The Met, both in their organisation and the officers themselves, showed themselves to be very hospitable and we mutual aid officers were well looked after by them.
There was a perceptible buzz around the Olympics whilst we were there, there were the funnily dressed Games Makers everywhere, the public were evidently caught up in the Olympic spirit and this made the games a true pleasure to police.
Keeping up to date with Team GB’s progress was a little difficult with our shifts but as the deployment progressed the growing medal haul suggested this Olympics would be a truly memorable one for British sport.
So it was for British policing.
For more photos from the deployment, please check out the gallery over on Facebook!