'The greatest show on Earth': BTP at the London 2012 Games

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were the first ‘public transport’ Games and the largest UK peacetime police operation ever.

British Transport Police officer at London 2012

“It would have been easy to be overawed by the sheer size of the operation,” says ACC Steve Thomas, who led BTP’s planning for the Olympics.

“But actually, when we first sat down to think about it, there was nothing here that we hadn’t done before. We are used to dealing with multiple large scale events around the country, many of the venues were in use already and we had tried and tested partnerships in place with transport operators and local police."

National event, national policing

“It wasn’t just about London: there were 34 venues across England, Scotland and Wales and we had a role at all of them.”

350 mutual aid officers, 50 Sergeants and 300 PCs were brought in from 17 forces around the country. We also recruited 13 volunteers to help support the Olympic and Paralympic policing operation.

Explosives search dogs are an important part of the search regime and the capability of keeping the rail infrastructure secure and disruption free. During Games time we added 10 more explosives search dogs and handlers to cover venue stations and routes, funded by the Department for Transport.

Our Games-time policing priorities

The main security and policing preoccupation at the time was the threat of terrorism.

ACC Thomas continues: “It was natural that the threat from international terrorism in particular was in the forefront of our thoughts.

“We knew we would be very much in the front line of the overt counter terrorism activity being undertaken by police forces across the country.  We had to be ready for that, whilst not ignoring the other threats."

We were concerned with key areas of protest, public order, crime – particularly from an influx of pickpockets who target any big event. E-crime and fraud were also priorities.

“Because we work within a transport environment,” says Steve, “we are not just concerned with the criminal justice aspects of crime and other policing issues.

"Network disruption caused by crime, for instance cable theft, or other incidents, such as a fatality on the line, are also our priority. We are focused not only on delivering a secure transport network, but one that is also disruption-free.”

A safe and secure Games

One of the biggest elements of the police operation was the comprehensive pre-emptive searches, which involved some 180 officers.

“These searches were essential – they gave us a high degree of confidence around the infrastructure,” says ACC Thomas.

“I think one of the big successes of the whole Olympic security operation was the way coordination and communications structures worked,” says ACC Thomas. 

“Dozens of agencies were involved in delivering the London 2012 Games and we put a lot of effort into making sure we could all work together effectively."