The 10,000 athletes competing for medals in the Olympic Games that start Friday in London will be dwarfed by a contingent of more than 36,000 soldiers, police officers, and private security staff, backed by U.S. law enforcement agents, thousands of closed-circuit cameras, unmanned drones, at least six missile batteries positioned on rooftops, and the Royal Navy's largest warship, the HMS Ocean, floating in the Thames, McClatchy Newspapers report. “Lockdown London,” read one headline in the Guardian newspaper.
The measures prompted worries from civil liberties advocates about heavy-handed policing, excessive surveillance, and whether officials have taken precautions too far. Last Friday, 25 police officers responded to a protest in Trafalgar Square involving three people who were enacting a play critiquing the environmental record of chemical companies that are Olympic sponsors. The police arrested six people for “criminal damage” after some green custard spilled to the ground. “As people start to see thousands of troops, military installations, a huge increase of civilian security, they will start to wonder if the authorities have lost sight of the proportionality in their response,” said Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group.