'We'll stop them grabbing a bit of the glory': Police to guard Olympic flame as it travels around Britain
By TARA BRADY
PUBLISHED: 13:37, 10 March 2012 | UPDATED: 14:52, 10 March 2012
A team of 28 police officers will be dedicated to protecting the Olympic torch and its bearers during a 8,000 mile tour of Britain ahead of the London 2012 Games.
The unarmed officers, who were chosen after a rigorous selection process, will take it in turns to run alongside the bearers for as long as 12 hours a day and will take in the outer reaches of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the Irish capital of Dublin.
There were violent protests in major international cities, including London, during torch rallies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics over China's human rights record and foreign policies regarding Tibet.
Security: Police officers practise guarding a fake Olympic torch ahead of the London 2012 Games
Protesters hurled themselves into the path of the relay in London and campaigners tried to grab the torch or put out the flame with a fire extinguisher.
Commander Bob Broadhurst, the officer in charge of Olympic policing in London, said: 'I think the biggest threat will be attention seekers, somebody trying to run alongside and grab a bit of the glory.
'I'm sure we'll get the odd protest every now and then up and down the country.'
A mock run took place on Friday to demonstrate how the police team would deal with various situations if they arose during the relay.
In training: Officers mocked the Olympic torch relay this week to show how they would deal with protesters
'We can scale it up if we think the threat deserves it. We'll be as tough and robust as we need to be,' Mr Broadhurst said, adding that the team were the 'last resort' of defence for the torch.
Last year Britain was hit by four days of rioting and violent protests - the worst public disorder in decades.
Anjem Choudary, a leading Islamist campaigner who has been involved in numerous high-profile demonstrations over the last decade, said the torch rallies could be a target.
He said: 'Any opportunity to pass on the message will be taken full advantage of.
Security minister James Brokenshire with officers who have been specially selected to run with the torch
'If there are foreign dignitaries for example from Israel or from some of the other countries where Muslims are being tortured...to do demonstrations against them and where they may be staying, I think that will be high on the agenda.'
The British authorities do not believe the torch relay will face the same issues the Chinese had to deal with, but have nonetheless chosen a much lower profile route.
After having its flame ignited in Ancient Olympia, the torch relay will begin in Britain at Land's End, the most southwesterly point of the country, on May 18.
Minister for crime and security James Brokenshire with police Commander Bob Broadhurst
Each of the 8,000 bearers will carry an individual version of the gold-coloured aluminium torch, likened to a huge cheese grater because of its meshed appearance, and will cover an average of 300 metres (yards) each.
After travelling the country, taking in 1,018 villages along the way, it will return to the capital for the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium in east London on July 27.
James Brokenshire, security minister, said: 'Whilst we don't expect this to be a protest event ... it's right and proper that we are prepared.
'We recognise during the course of the Games and also on the relay itself, the eyes of the country and of the world will be on us.'
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Edited by MrKguy, 10 March 2012 - 10:40 PM.