Members of the British army at Eton Dorney, the venue of the London 2012 Olympic Games rowing events. Photograph: Peter Morgan/AP
Military faces big task to get back to normal, says planning chief, after deploying 18,000 troops to London 2012 duties
The armed forces will take two years to recover from their involvement in the Olympic Games because so many personnel have been deployed at short notice and taken away from normal duties, the military’s chief planner for the Games has said.
In an interview with the Guardian, Wing Commander Peter Daulby also warned that critics who wanted a smaller military put the country at risk of not being able to cope with these kind of civil emergencies, or a “national strategic shock”.
Daulby, who was put in charge of the military’s Olympic planning 18 months ago, said the need to send thousands of extra troops to the Games at the last minute after the G4S debacle showed “the country needs a military for more than war fighting”.
Describing the Olympics as the largest peacetime operation ever performed by the armed forces, he said: “It just shows you the dangers of pulling the military down. I am sure that there are some people who think that if we are a smaller military power we will be less likely to get involved in international operations.
“If we shrink the military, do we really understand what we are losing? Look at the speed with which we pushed up the throttle. It proves the military offers the country a huge amount of resilience.”
Daulby, 45, was one of several senior officers who spoke to the Guardian about the military’s contribution to the Olympics, which increased more than threefold from May last year.
Then, only 5,000 personnel were expected to be deployed, but that increased to 18,000 when the Olympic organisers Locog admitted they had significantly underestimated the number of security guards needed at the venues – and G4S conceded it had over-estimated its ability to recruit and train the extra staff.
he rush to train and get everyone ready meant “we were building the plane at the same time as flying the plane”, he said.
“We did not think that it would be healthy for the Olympic Games to be too militarised. Our fears were not well founded. It has been an enhancing experience.”
Brigadier Richard Smith said the scale and difficulty of the military’s role in London 2012 was comparable to operations in and .
“In terms of threat it is not comparable, but in terms of scale it is more than comparable. The complexity of the basing and the training to get them to task … it’s been a massive operation in a short space of time.
“In and in Helmand, we could build up over time and establish ourselves. For this we had a short space of time and we had to get it right first time.”