As we write, the Olympic torch is making its way across the UK, but here in Labs we wanted to know what your thoughts were on a very different kind of Olympics-related firepower.
We invited you to share your views on the Government’s plans to place surface-to-air missiles at six sites (including atop residential buildings) around London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In addition to the missiles, an 18-kilometre electrified fence around the “safe zone”, and an aircraft carrier parked in the Thames, 23,700 security staff will be posted at the Olympic and Paralympic venues.
A few months ago it was revealed that the security budget for the Games was almost being doubled from its original £282 million estimate to £553 million for the duration of the Olympics.
When coming into Labs to weight up the issues, participants were fairly evenly split over whether ground-to-air missiles were necessary.
Most who thought the missiles measure was appropriate, said they believed there was a genuine threat of terrorist attack. They reasoned that it was better to be safe than sorry, even if the missiles serve only as a deterrent.
Those of you who were against the Government placing missiles around London questioned whether they would be actually be effective in protecting against terrorists, and also took issue with the associated costs.
Many of the participants taking this stance were also alarmed at the possibility of shooting down an aircraft over London.
As to whether the increased security presence being put in place for the Olympics should be a temporary or permanent fixture (a question originally raised by Today Programme presenter John Humphrys):
- Most of you who took part said that the extra security should be in place only for the Olympics.
- The small proportion of participants who were in favour of making the increased security presence permanent, said that the threat of terrorism is constant, and also that more police could help deter crime.
What are your views on the Government’s Olympics security plans?
And would you be for or against these temporary measures becoming permanent once the Olympics ends?
We asked: Is it necessary or unnecessary to place surface-to-air missiles at six sites around London during the Olympic Games?
YES, surface-to-air missiles are necessary
“There is a fairly high level of risk of terrorist attack, and since it is known that terrorists target high profile and high casualty opportunities, I believe that our government is correct in taking appropriate measures to ensure safety and deterrence – including airspace” Daniel W, South Scotland
“When China hosted the Olympics they had patrollers with guns walking the streets. I think that the surface-to-air missiles send a strong message that we are protected and this may deter anyone from planning an attack during the Olympics” Anon
“It’s better to be prepared to stop an attack than do nothing and look like a bunch of idiots” Anon
“Given previous events there is a good chance that a terror group could hijack a plane and crash it anywhere. Surface-to-air missiles are a good defence and their publicity vastly reduces the chances of an attack” Anon
“If something was to happen and we had not taken the correct precautions we would be humiliated in front of the world. Also, we would be endangering not just representatives from the UK, but from almost every country in the world as well” Anon
“The sites are a necessary temporary evil to ensure the protection of those at and living around the games. I think it would be better to have missiles there as a deterrent and a protection than an actual attack” Anon
“I live right beside the Olympic Village and it's comforting to know that there would be some massive deterrents to would-be attackers during this time. The eyes of the world are on London right now and it is a comfort to know that they won't be seeing any horrors through the summer” Ashleigh-Kate, London
“It is a reasonable assumption that the event is a terrorist target – not only from anti UK groups but from those who wish to pursue their own wars in this country and try to emulate what happened at the Munich Olympics. This approach is part of covering all eventualities” Anon
“The Olympic Games are a world event; this will make it a prime target for any terrorist group to make a statement. Terrorists have already used planes to cause mass destruction, and even a small plane hitting a stadium will have devastating effects. So the government are right to take steps to cover every possible scenario without stopping the games” Kevin Wardle, Middlesbrough
NO, surface-to-air missiles are unnecessary
“'Overkill' – no pun intended. How does shooting a plane down over a densely populated area protect anyone? It's nonsense and a waste of money” Mark, Wirral
“They wouldn't be any good dealing with most forms of terrorist attack. Also, it could make security staff less vigilant about suspicious behaviour if the emphasis is on fighting rather than prevention.” Pam S, West Midlands
“Surely our national defence is already set up to deal with threats from the air; if additional defences are needed, then there needs to be a wider ranging review rather than just sticking a couple of missiles on top of some council housing” Lucas B, Canterbury
“There are armed jets in the sky from bases north of London at all times anyway (ever since 9/11). Their brief is to neutralise any threat from the air. The surface-to-air missiles seems like boys’ toys to me and even, maybe, someone’s idea to get extra kit outside of their regular budget!” Anon
“If hijacked planes get that close to London then shooting them down is still going to cause them to crash onto a lot of people and buildings” Alex H, London
“It is dangerous to the indigenous population. Any launch of a missile to intercept a perceived threat will inevitably cause collateral damage to those living underneath the incident on the ground. In any event, if the ‘security services’ really knew what they were doing, they would head off any threat long before it reached London. This nonsense is the usual pretentious macho posturing to show who's boss, and should be shown the contempt it deserves” Patrick, Watford
“The government is following Labour's rule of frightening people unnecessarily” Anon
“It's a cynical bit of security theatre designed to boost the next MoD budget share” Pete S, Coventry
“Completely over-the-top reaction. Residents and the public should not be subject to this extreme risk of placing weapons immediately nearby” Nigel, Holmfirth
We asked: Do you think 23,700 security staff should be in place just for the Olympics, or made permanent post-Games?
Increased security should be in place just for the Games
“It’s unrealistic and unsustainable to have the increased volume of security on a permanent basis, and I think it would be excessive and unnecessary. Nothing will be different after the Olympics than it is now so such an increase in security wouldn't be justifiable” Rachel, Manchester
“It is important to be prepared at an event which causes a heightened security risk, but we do not want to seem hostile by having them as permanent fixtures” Anon
“A huge world event like the Olympics is clearly a target for terrorists with so many people (including many World leaders and VIPs) gathered together in one place. Therefore, a huge increase in security is justified. However, once the games are over, security levels should fall back to normal” Anon
“In a recession, we simply can't afford to keep that sort of presence up. I appreciate the need for Big Brother during, and maybe a couple of weeks after the games, but that is all” Rich, Leamington
“Do they really need that much security staff after the Olympics? They probably don’t even need that much for the Olympics!” Anon
“Maximum Security 24/7, whatever the cost, would alter our way of life and could infringe on civil liberty. The ‘bombers’ would love it” Mac, Worthing
Increased security should be made permanent post-Olympics
“If they have the money to spend on extra police while the Olympics are on why can't we be more protected afterwards?” Anon
“Increased presence can only be a good thing; the number of police on streets is already flaking and we need to reaffirm security around London” Jack, Surrey
“We face an enduring threat from terrorists, fundamental Islamists in particular” Anon
“To stabilise public mood and promote a feeling of safety, both from terror and from crime. If people feel safer they will be happier and work harder which will boost the British economy” Reece S, Chingford
“To combat gangs, tackle drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, and to ensure law abiding people can live their lives without fear” Pedro R, London
“This could also be a good time for killers to attack you when your guard is down or relaxed” John D, Northern Ireland