Friday, 13 March 2009

G20 security: Olympic security field practice

The UK is hosting the G20 Meeting, the so-called London Summit, on April 2, 2009. In light of the ongoing global financial downturn, there is no need to elaborate on the importance of this particular summit. Spirits are running high, not only among heads of state and finance ministers, but also among those of us who do not live on the state or profited from the burst financial bubble.

How big is the G20? Well, evidently the heads of state of the twenty largest economies have been invited to attend: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.

How tight are the security arrangements? Pretty tight, we expect. But given the anarchist groups these international gatherings attract, popular anger, and the many routes through which one can get into London, the Summit will become also a security test; an early benchmark against which to measure how bad things can get. We should not forget, for instance, that the Real IRA decided to show it is alive and kicking over the last few days.

As a preamble to the London Summit, the G20 Finance Ministers meeting takes place on 14 March. Details on the venue were leaked some time ago and printed by the news media; not a very good sign. The delegations from Argentina, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey might like to make further arrangements for their own security, as a leaked confidential document originating from the UK Foreign Office and obtained by the Financial Times reveals that they have been designated a secondary priority.

The G20 Summit and the Finance Ministers meeting are also early rehearsals, basic security tests, on how the UK is likely to run security during the 2012 London Olympics. Some commentators (and London residents) dread that the Olympics, and security measures attached, will paralyze London. Has the London Olympics Organizing Committee started to communicate with the relevant security industry professional associations? Whoops! is the answer. There are worse scenarios to contemplate, but there is no need to get carried away at this stage.

So let’s see how things unfold. If there is not going to be a breakthrough on the best way to deal with the fast deteriorating world economy, at least a peaceful gathering is hoped.

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