UK Olympic head says Boat Race highlights security woes

UK Olympic head says Boat Race highlights security woes

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
UK Olympic head says Boat Race highlights security woes

Cambridge rowing team celebrate after winning against Oxford in the158th Boat Race on the River Thames. REUTERS photo

Britain’s Olympic chief warned yesterday that security forces cannot rule out the threat of disruption to the London Games after a protester halted the historic Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

Australian activist Trenton Oldfield, 35, was charged with a public order offence after he caused a half-hour hiatus in Saturday’s race by swimming in front of the two universities’ boats in the River Thames.

British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said there was a high risk of similar incidents during the London Olympics, which begin on July 27, with the torch relay starting next month.

‘Security measures need to be put in place’

“It just takes, and is likely to be, one idiot. It’s not likely to be a well-orchestrated campaign through Twitter or websites,” Moynihan, himself a former Olympic rowing silver medalist, told BBC radio.

“It is likely to be someone similar to the idiot yesterday who causes major disruption. That is why all the security measures need to be put in place to minimize the chance of that happening.

“You can never completely remove it but you can do everything possible to protect the interests of the athletes by minimizing it.”

Moynihan said the British government and the London Olympic Organizing Committee had been aware of the security challenges “since day one” and were looking at “every conceivable scenario.”

Torch relay coming
“In many respects that is the biggest ask of the Games: you are not just talking about the competitions, you are talking about the pre-Games training camps, athletes will come well in advance based around the country, you’ve got the torch relay coming up, the public need to be protected.

“It’s not impossible but it is a major challenge. You can never get it perfect unless you remove all the crowds and nobody is going to dream of doing anything like that.”

Oldfield’s antics have also raised security fears for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, during which a flotilla of 1,000 boats is due to travel down the Thames in June.

Cambridge eventually won the 158th annual race between England’s two oldest universities race but it was a controversial victory, with Oxford losing an oar shortly after it was restarted.