Yesterday I spent much of the morning popping up from various underground stations to watch the Virgin London Marathon in all its 26.2 mile glory. I was keen to see both the race itself and also to get a glimpse at the policing operation supporting the event as I’ll soon be coming back to London myself to help out with an even bigger sporting event – the Olympic Games.
As ever the preparations that would have gone into the race paid off handsomely with the return being a smoothly run event that was as enjoyable for the fans as it was for the participants themselves. London lends itself well to hosting a race on the scale of the marathon and the international flavour of the audience which I spent most of the day weaving through I think showing the worldwide appeal of the capital city.
The course record was just missed with Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang winning the male race in 2:04:44 and Mary Keitany, also of Kenya, being the first woman across the finish line with a time of 2:18:37.
As an occasional amateur runner myself I know these times are ridiculously quick – I was happy with completing the Black Country Half Marathon in just over an hour and a half last year so can’t really put into words how impressed I am when the pros go to work.
On the policing side, officers from both The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London forces looked like they were having as much fun as some of the spectators. There were officers perched on horses, lots of bobbies wondering around on foot and support vehicles parked on nearly every street corner.
Hosting the marathon every year they’re obviously used to the size of the event and I reckon this bodes well for hosting the Olympics which I guess they’ll just see as a big fancy sports day.
Okay, maybe Lord Coe would challenge me on that description – the Olympics are going to involve tens of thousands of people flooding into the capital to watch athletes competing in a range of disciplines at venues spread across the city and beyond. The spectators – and not to mention the athletes themselves – are going to require feeding, housing, transport and security on a massive scale. In less than one hundred days London is going to be capital of the world.
Whilst London is the host, the games are obvious larger than the city itself and so require help from all over to ensure they run to plan. Thousands of volunteers have come forward and when it comes to supporting the capital’s emergency services, there’ll be staff from all over the country drafted in to reinforce the local resources.
As the second largest force, West Midlands Police will be sending a number of officers – myself included – down to London to provide what we call ‘mutual aid’. Planning for this operation will have been going on behind the scenes ever since we first won the bid for the games and will no doubt be on a scale as grand as the games themselves.
Whilst at the moment I don’t know exactly where I’ll be working or what I’ll be doing, I’m likely to be working the the British Transport Police to ensure the underground and overground train networks can manage the increased load. Having spent three years living in London myself and never really getting my head around the tube map, this could be interesting but I’m sure we’ll do our best!
Other officers will be providing support in different roles including specialist search teams, public order and crowd control.
Whilst the focus of the Olympics will obviously be on London, this isn’t to say that we’re not affected by the games up here in what Londoners term ‘the north’ with there being events to get involved with even if you didn’t manage to get tickets for the mens’ 100 meter final or the inexplicably popular womens’ volleyball.
You can keep an eye out on the local events over on the London 2012 website with the main thing to look out for being the Olympic Torch visiting Walsall on Saturday June 30th.
It’ll be making its way down the A34 onto Green Lane, past the police station and then doing a lap of the town centre before dashing down the Wolverhampton Road and across Junction 10 of the M6 towards Willenhall and then on into Wolverhampton.
The route is planned so that the torch will pass within ten miles of 95% of the population, check out the map to find out when and where it’ll be coming to your area.
The other main consideration for the West Midlands is that of security – there’s always the chance someone might use the games as an opportunity to cause trouble and as such we need your help in ensuring this doesn’t happen. We ask that you remain vigilant in the run up to the games and that you report any suspicious activity connected with the Olympics to us immediately. Either call us on 101 or approach Crimestoppers anonymously.
As you may be able to tell, the Olympics are something that I’m really looking forward to and so am happy that I’ve had the chance to go down and get involved in an event which I’ll remember for the rest of my police career.
It’s going to require a lot of work from a lot of people to make the games a success – judging from what I saw in London yesterday I think we’re on the right track.