Posts tagged "Olympic Games"

Ryanair profits rise 10%

Net profit for the six months to end the of September rose to €596m from €544m a year ago thanks to higher fares and a lower fuel bill

Ryanair said profit in the first half jumped 10%, beating expectations thanks to higher fares and a lower fuel bill, prompting Europe’s biggest budget airline to raise its guidance for full-year profit.

The Dublin-based airline, which is waiting to hear whether EU regulators will approve its takeover of Aer Lingus, said fares rose 6% in the second half, coupled with a surge in passenger numbers during the summer months.

“It was a strong performance after the Olympic Games, we certainly saw an upward rise in average fares. Many people who appeared to stay at home … came back in force post the Olympic Games,” chief financial officer Howard Millar told Reuters.

Net profit for the six months to end-September rose to €596m (£476m), from €544m a year ago and ahead of analyst expectations at €564m. Revenue surged 15% to €3.1bn.

The airline lifted its forecast for the year to March to a profit of between of €490m to €520m from its previous guidance of €400m to €440m for the year to March.

Ryanair said in a recent update on its bid to acquire rival Aer Lingus that it has offered concessions to European Union antitrust regulators in an effort to secure regulatory clearance. It has a 6 February deadline for its decision on the €700m deal.

Ryanair said it would not take part in the sale of London’s Stansted airport last month, after the airport’s owner BAA, excluded the budget airline from the process.

Shares in European airlines Air France-KLM and Lufthansa both rose towards the end of last week after posting reassuring results on Thursday. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - November 5, 2012 at 08:32

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House sales suffer Olympic distraction

Rics says number of new instructions in August was unchanged from July, while prices continued to edge lower

The number of potential homebuyers viewing properties dipped in August as the Olympics provided a distraction, although overall sales held firm, according to the latest report by surveyors.

In the three months to August, chartered surveyors sold on average 7.5% of the homes on their books a month, a figure which has remained consistent throughout 2012, the latest Rics housing market survey said.

With the Olympic Games taking place, a net balance of 9% more surveyors reported falls in demand, compared to 4% more in July, Rics said.

Spokesman Ian Perry said: “Little changed in the housing market last month. Despite the Olympics taking centre stage throughout much of August, it didn’t have any real impact on the proportion of sales going through.

“Understandably, the amount of people out looking at property fell away slightly, but generally speaking demand held up fairly well.”

The housing market has struggled since the withdrawal of the stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers at the end of March, and confidence was hit by the weakening economy and the ongoing eurozone debt crisis.

Rics said the number of new instructions in August was unchanged on the July figure, while prices continued to edge lower – albeit at a slower pace than in previous months.

A net balance of 19% more respondents reported price falls rather than rises, down from 23% in July.

London was the only part of the country to report a positive reading for prices, while surveyors in Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside reported the weakest readings.

Looking ahead, chartered surveyors across the country predict transaction levels to pick up slightly as autumn approaches, with 12% more respondents expecting sales to rise rather than fall over the coming three months. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - September 11, 2012 at 22:59

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David Cameron thanks Armed Forces, police and Olympic volunteers

The Prime Minister David Cameron has today thanked Olympics volunteers, members of the Armed Forces, police and others who made the Games possible, describing them as ‘the very best of Britain.’ After the Paralympic Games concludes, the Government will issue those members of the Armed Forces and the Police involved with a commemorative coin to thank them for delivering a safe and secure Olympic Games. It will also look at whether other groups should be included.

In addition to the 70,000 commemorative batons being given to Games Makers by LOCOG, the Department for Culture Media and Sport will also give the same baton to the other 18,000 volunteers who worked as London and UK ambassadors and as additional support at airports and train stations.

Mr Cameron said:

“The volunteers, members of the Armed Forces, police and others who worked on the Games are the ones who made them possible. These people not only gave up their time, but brought a phenomenal energy and passion to the streets and to Olympic venues up and down the country. So I hope what will stay with the volunteers will be the experience of a lifetime in helping to make London 2012 the monumental success that it was. These coins and batons are just a small permanent token of the enormous gratitude we all have for them.

“The passion and professionalism of the volunteers has been matched by the fantastic work of the Armed Forces and the police, who have worked tirelessly to deliver a safe and secure Games. I am delighted to be giving a commemorative coin to everyone who helped to deliver the biggest peacetime security operation this country has ever seen.

“I also want to say a big thank you to everyone else who worked during the Olympic Games: the G4S staff and contractors, transport workers and all those who, along with our volunteers, the Army and the Police, helped to show the world what a fantastic country the United Kingdom is. They are the very best of Britain.”

The Prime Minister is also giving his backing to the ‘Join In’ campaign – an independent charity, funded by £2.5m of Government money, which invites those who got involved in the Olympics to volunteer in future.

The Prime Minister added:

“These Games have yet again shown that Britain is a great volunteering nation. When I visited Olympic venues this summer, I had the privilege of meeting many of the volunteers and saw just how infectious their passion and dedication was.

“We need to make the most of this magic moment and harness the enthusiasm for sport and for volunteering the Games has generated. That’s why the ‘Join In Local Sport’ project is so important, so that we bring London 2012 back to the place it begins for every great champion: their local sports club and the great volunteers who make it all possible.”

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Posted by admin - August 27, 2012 at 12:21

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PM puts the Olympic spotlight on global hunger and malnutrition

Prime Minister David Cameron and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil will challenge world leaders to improve the lives of 170 million malnourished children around the globe at a hunger summit hosted at Number 10 tomorrow.

Almost one in three of the world’s poorest children cannot reach their full potential due to malnutrition. As the Olympics draw to a close, the Prime Minister and Vice President want to harness the attention around London 2012 to help improve children’s nutrition between now and the next Games in 2016.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Cameron said:

“I wanted to do this during the Olympic Games. We’re all thinking about the next gold medal, but there are millions of children around the world who are thinking, ‘am I going to get the next meal?’

“There are 170 million children who are malnourished. In some cases, tragically, it results in death but in a lot of cases it results in stunting; it means that people don’t reach their full potential.

“I think it’s good that while the world’s looking at London, they’re not just seeing a great country, a great city, a great Olympic Games, but they’re seeing a country that actually cares about the poorest in the world.”

A new global target to reduce the number of stunted children by 70 million by 2025 has been agreed by the World Health Assembly. The event will bring together leaders, athletes and representatives from business and NGOs to help strengthen these commitments and bring in new champions to support the global movement.

Mr Cameron added:

“I want to ensure that these Olympics also provide a lasting legacy for more children in the world’s poorest countries.

“We want to use the summit to find new ways of tackling malnutrition – fostering innovation in biotechnology, encouraging stronger co-operation between governments and ensuring better accountability by Governments who receive aid. For every £1 spent effectively tackling malnutrition, £30 of benefits are generated.

“This Sunday, we hope to agree a package of measures that will transform the lives of millions of children before the Rio Olympic Games 2016 and we will lay down the gauntlet to the rest of the world to take more decisive action before the 2016 Olympic Games so that many more can fulfil their potential too”.



[View the story "Global Hunger Event" on Storify]

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Posted by admin -  at 12:21

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Olympic Games have shown world what Britain is made of, says Cameron

Prime minister vows that London 2012 will have positive effect on UK economy as he boasts of sporting and social legacy

David Cameron has declared that Britain has “shown the world what we are made of” and vowed that the success of the Olympics would leave a positive legacy for sport, volunteering and the British economy.

With Britain third in the medal table and the Paralympic Games still to come, Cameron used the midpoint of London 2012 to declare that “Britain delivered” and had shown itself to be “not a country whose time has been but whose time has come”.

“We showed the world what we are made of, we reminded ourselves what we can do and we demonstrated that you should never ever count Team GB down and out. The lesson of these past weeks is that Britain can, and should, be ambitious.

“Frankly, we have got to dismiss the cynics who say we cannot do big things and prove them wrong. We in this country are going to make sure that these are not just Games that made history but the Games that helped to shape our future.”

As the Games prepared to draw to a close on Sunday, a clearly cheered prime minister paid tribute to a “truly great country” where a boy born in Somalia, Mo Farah, could come to the UK, seize on the opportunities “and run his way into the nation’s heart”.

“Over the last couple of weeks we have looked in the mirror and we like what we have seen as a country,” he said.

The prime minister, who has appointed Lord Coe, chair of the London 2012 Olympic organising committee (Locog), as his Olympic legacy adviser to help secure the long-term benefits of hosting the Games, vowed to draw on this spirit to ensure the impact of the Games “isn’t just for the summer, but for good”.

He promised a “physical legacy” that would ensure the Olympic Park was put to good use, an economic legacy “with new deals broken on the back of these Games”, one for volunteers who want to play a part in a “bigger society”, and one for sport.

Cameron confirmed that sport would continue to receive £125m a year up to the next Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with £87m coming from the national lottery and £40m from the exchequer.

The prime minister also defended his decision to put competitive sport such as football, hockey and netball in a new draft PE curriculum, due to be published in the autumn – a measure announced over the weekend as he faced down calls to bring back a target for pupils to do two hours of sport a week.

“We are saying out with the bureaucratic, anti-risk, all-must-have-prizes culture, which has led to a death of competitive sport in too many schools, and in with the belief that competition is healthy, that winning and losing is an important part of growing up” said Cameron.

He added: “The trouble with so many of the top-down targets is they become something that schools think once you’ve achieved, that’s it. I think that’s been one of the problems in the provision of sport.”

The move will only cover local authority-run state schools, however, since academies and free schools are free to set their own curriculum.

Cameron said he believed in giving schools much greater freedom but felt it was “a mistake” that the national curriculum currently makes no mention of “competitive sport”.

“The two are totally reconcilable – the competition between schools that we are going to see, now that more schools are academies and more schools have these freedoms, I think will engender great competition in terms of schools wanting to do more to respond to the demand that parents and children have for sporting activity, physical exercise and all the rest of it.

“So competition and choice and diversity will help to drive up provision but at the heart of the national curriculum should be a few simple ideas about what we mean when we talk about sport in our schools.”

Commenting on the fact that his two older children were at a state school that didn’t have a green space as big as the Downing Street garden to play, Cameron said he wanted his children to have the chance to play mainstream sports such as football, rugby and netball “alongside really important things in terms of PE”.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, defended the requirement for two weekly hours of PE in schools, saying that it had seen a big rise in the number of children doing sport.

He told BBC News: “I think at least two hours of sport in school a week, that was the idea that the last Labour government had, I think it was the right thing to do and we saw a dramatic improvement in the number of kids doing two hours’ sport – from something like 25% to 90%.”

But the Labour leader stressed he did not want “political argey-bargey” and said he wanted to see a cross-party 10-year plan for sport. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - August 13, 2012 at 08:12

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Retailers fail to get Olympics boost in ‘lacklustre’ July

High-street sales hit by mix of wet weather and lower inflation while Olympic Games benefit blip fails to materialise

Retailers suffered a disappointing July as a slight boost from the Olympics failed to make up for the impact of wet weather and lower inflation, which reduced overall takings.Sales values edged up 0.1% higher on a like-for-like basis in July, compared with a 0.6% rise in the same month last year, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG research said.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at professional services firm KPMG, said: “Sadly July was a lacklustre month and it’s doubtful this trend will change as early expectations that the Olympics will raise retailers’ fortunes look to be wide of the mark. Central London’s retailers are already being hit hard by shoppers actively avoiding the capital. It’s likely that any blip of benefit the Games bring will be short-lived.” Total sales, including new stores, were up by 2% compared with 2.5% in July last year, while the three-month rolling average shows growth of like-for-like non-food sales outpacing food sales for the first time.

Big-ticket items such as furniture and household appliances continue to struggle to sell with growth being promotion-driven. House prices fell in July after two months of increases but they are expected to remain flat for the rest of the year, a survey said today. The average house price was £161,094 last month, which was 0.6% lower than in June and the previous July, according to the Halifax House Price Index. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - August 8, 2012 at 08:36

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London 2012: Westfield Stratford shopping centre to close this weekend

Organisers to shut retail centre to manage larger crowds attending events at Olympic Park as athletics begins

The Westfield Stratford shopping centre will be closed to the general public on Friday and Saturday in order to manage crowds of 200,000 streaming to the Olympic Park, London 2012 organisers have announced.

The cavernous shopping centre adjacent to the Olympic Park will only be accessible to ticket holders and accredited officials, media and athletes.

The majority of spectators have been passing through the shopping centre in order to reach their events, with many hanging around to eat and drink. But while footfall is believed to be significantly up on average, it is understood that takings among retailers are significantly down. Although spectators are milling around in the centre, fewer are shopping.

The closure of the centre to the general public is likely to exacerbate the problem for retailers on the site. However, Westfield Stratford is faring considerably better than many retailers in central London, which have seen takings decline as crowds have stayed away due to warnings over transport and congestion.

Having promised a party atmosphere across the city, organisers now face the difficult challenge of honing the message to persuade visitors to come into central London, while continuing to manage transport issues.

The Olympic organising committee (Locog) said it had always been “part of the plan” to close the shopping centre. But asked why the decision had not been communicated earlier, a spokeswoman said it had wanted to monitor crowd behaviour first.

Around 200,000 fans are expected on the Park on Friday and Saturday, with the athletics events in the main 80,000 capacity stadium beginning.

This week, attendances at the Park have averaged around 80,000-90,000. No general access Park tickets were made available for the second week due to overcrowding concerns.

Managing the volume of spectators over the weekend will be a key challenge for Locog, particularly on the bridge that connects the main transport hub at Stratford to the shopping centre. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - August 3, 2012 at 08:27

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The Olympics by numbers in the north

Scepticism remains but there has been a gradual shift, as excitement mounts and the prospect of a national tonic is more widely shared. The Guardian Northerner‘s political commentator Ed Jacobs reports

It has been over seven years in the making. In just a few hours’ time the curtain lifts on – depending on your point of view – the biggest waste of money for many years or a colourful festival of sport that is going to be the boost we need for a Britain mired in recession.

The final countdown has seen the torch procession reach new levels of invention and encouraging nudges and winks from those allowed to watch rehearsals of the secret opening ceremony, who have remained impressively discreet. But we have also had the G4S fiasco whose embarrassments included a Manchester Evening News reporter sign up as a security guard for the firm despite turning up to a training session unannounced.

But that is now for history and post-match analysis, as we settle down to watch the Olympians and Paralympians battle it out for the coveted bronze, silver and gold medals. As we do, here is a final take on the way that the Games, so heavily concentrated in London, have tried to bring the north of England on board and ensure that it feels the legacy of the games every bit as much as the capital.

Over the weekend a host of polls were released assessing the public mood. They suggests that while northerners feel that the money spent on the games is perhaps excessive, the final outcome is likely to be a positive effect on the public mood.

Cost Effectiveness

In June the sports minister Hugh Robertson announced that the Olympics themselves will actually come in under the £9 billion budget. Despite this, the north remains sceptical about how much of a bargain this is, with polling by YouGov for the Sunday Times suggesting that 55% of people in our three region feel it to be bad value for money, compared with the 30% who are satisfied. In its findings ComRes, surveying for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror, found that the proportion of people believing that the games won’t be value for money in the end evenly split between the three northern regions, at around 50%.

Will they be a success?

Predictions are the stuff of Mystic Meg and crucially depends on the definition of ‘success’. A caveat, therefore, over YouGov’s polling which suggests that 46% of northerners feel that the big event itself will not be a success, compared with the 30% who are optimistic. Alongside this, just over 60% of the region, according to the findings, suggest that they are simply not interested in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games. Organisers will be hoping for some gripping drama on at the sports venues to turn this around; and it is hard to think of an Olympics which lacked drama.

Preparations and Legacy

It’s perhaps not surprising, given the G4S fiasco, that confidence in the preparations for the games has been dented, with the data suggesting that 50% of northern respondents feel the preparations have gone badly, compared with the admittedly large proportion, 42%, who feel they have been handled well. It might have been expected, however, that given G4S, the gap between the two would have been wider.

What is more, G4S doesn’t seemed to have done too much damage to confidence in the security operations, with 49% of the north believing the games will be safe compared to the 44% who feel that they will not.

One interesting finding from YouGov, given Yorkshire’s bid to host the foreign stretch of the 2016 Tour de France, is that just 16% of people in the north feel the way that the Olympics have been organised will increase confidence in the country’s ability to host major sporting events, compared with 32% who feel the opposite and 43% who reckon it will have made no difference.

If we are to host another major event soon, efforts will probably be needed to improve the ticketing system. With reports that 700,000 tickets remain unsold for the Olympic Games, YouGov’s polling points to 48% of people in the north feeling that the ticketing system has been unfair, compared with 17% who were content with it.

Looking Ahead

Whilst YouGov report that with hindsight 48% of northerners feel the UK should not have bid for the games in the first place, compared with the 41% who believe we should, a cheer will be raised for the findings of Ipsos Mori’s poll that despite a degree of scepticism, 70% of the north considers that the Games themselves will have a positive effect on the national mood.

Now we have the great test: and then, after billing London 2012 as the ‘legacy games’, the key for organisers will be to use the next two weeks as a platform and launch pad for vastly improving sporting facilities and access, all over the country.

What do you think? Are the Olympics going to be a good thing for the North? Will you be following the games, or are looking to escape the country?

Ed Jacobs is a political consultant at the Leeds based Public Affairs Company and devolution correspondent for the centre-left political and policy blog, Left Foot Forward. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - July 27, 2012 at 09:08

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Mitt Romney’s Olympics blunder stuns No 10 and hands gift to Obama

Republican candidate backtracks on warning of ‘disconcerting’ signs for Games after rebukes by British PM and London mayor

Mitt Romney handed Barack Obama a potential gift for the US presidential election campaign when the presumptive Republican nominee blundered on his first diplomatic outing by questioning whether London was capable of staging a successful Olympic Games.

In a move that astonished Downing Street, hours before it laid on a special reception for Romney at No 10, he told NBC there were “disconcerting” signs about the preparations for the Games. One senior Whitehall source said: “What a total shocker. We are speechless.”

David Cameron wasted no time in rebuking Romney hours after his remarks were broadcast. On a visit to the Olympic Park, the prime minister said: “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

Cameron’s remarks were intended to be a light-hearted jibe at Romney, who used his famous management skills honed at Bain Capital to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, joined in the jibes at a celebration to greet the Olympic torch in Hyde Park. “I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready,” Johnson yelled from the stage to a cheering crowd.

“He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.”

Romney rowed back after a 45-minute meeting in Downing Street where the prime minister expressed his unease about his remarks. “I am very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I have seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organisation and [I] expect the Games to be highly successful,” he said.

When asked about the preparations for the Olympics in an interview on Wednesday night with the NBC anchor Brian Williams, Romney said: “There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because there are three parts that makes Games successful.

“Number one, of course, are the athletes. That’s what overwhelmingly the Games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they’ll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”

In Washington, Democrats pounced on the comments. Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, said they were an embarassment for the US. “It’s not good for us as a country – it’s not good for him – but as a country to have somebody that’s nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody,” Reid told the Huffington Post.

Romney’s campaign team set up a conference call with US reporters in an attempt to limit the damage from the faltering UK visit. The campaign fielded Lousiana governor Bobby Jindal and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell in Romney’s defence. “We’re not worried about overseas headlines. We’re worried about voters back here in America,” Jindal said in comments reported by Talking Points Memo.

The Olympics blunder came on top of what had been an inauspicious start to Romney’s week-long overseas trip, designed in part to establish his foreign policy credentials with voters back home. His camp was forced to repudiate comments by an un-named adviser who told the Daily Telegraph that Barack Obama, the first black US president, had mishandled Anglo-American ties and that Romney better understood the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” between the two countries.

On Thursday, Romney also took the unusual step of acknowledging that he had met the head of MI6, Britain’s secretive foreign intelligence agency, when asked about his discussions with British officials about Syria. Such conversations are not normally discussed publicly by government leaders.

“I can only say that I appreciated the insights and the perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of MI6 as we discussed Syria and hoped for a more peaceful future for that country,” he said.

Romney also met Ed Miliband, the leader of the oppositon Labour party. Miliband took questions from two reporters from what he called “my side”, but Romney would not take questions from US journalists. At one point, Romney called Miliband “Mr Leader”, which prompted suggestions he had forgotten Miliband’s name.

There were also meetings with foreign secretary William Hague, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former PM Tony Blair.

Romney later went on to a fundraiser at the Mandarin hotel in London, at which he repeated his promise to restore a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office in the White House if he is elected. Obama replaced the bust with one of Abraham Lincoln after his election, in what was interpreted in the British media as a snub to the transatlantic relationship.

His campaign team claimed the event took $2m in donations, but there were reports earlier that ticket prices had been lowered, and that some people had been offered free passes. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin -  at 09:08

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G4S staff ‘cheat’ on tests to run x-ray scanners at Olympic Games

Recruits given several chances to pass exams on bomb detection – but just 20 minutes training on machines

‘It was easy to miss something and I did – a bomb in the bag’

The credibility of the Olympic security operation being run by G4S is called into further question by claims that scores of trainees are being allowed to “cheat” their way through tests for the x-ray machines that detect homemade bombs and other weapons.

Trainees who fail the test are being given repeated opportunities to get the right answers to the same questions, and are also being allowed to confer with others during the exams under the noses of instructors, a source has told the Guardian.

Recruits are being given only 20 minutes’ practice on the real machines that will be used at the Olympic venues to stop visitors bringing in dangerous materials, or possibly an IED (improvised explosive device).

G4S insisted it has followed industry standards and that the tests were designed and approved by the Olympic organisers, Locog. It said it was not “uncommon or wrong” for trainees to repeat tests.

But the Guardian has been told that concern about the proper staffing of the x-ray machines was raised at the government’s Cobra meeting on Monday, which involved senior ministers and Olympic Games officials.

With the Olympic opening ceremony just days away, police and armed forces have now been asked to “scope out” whether they can undertake more x-ray duties, and run the CCTV monitors too, if G4S cannot supply the numbers needed to operate the machines.

Gaps in the security operation have been emerging ever since G4S admitted almost a fortnight ago that it could not provide its full quota of 10,000 fully trained security guards. The firm hopes to provide 7,000.

The Ministry of Defence has mobilised an extra 3,500 personnel, and put another 1,200 on notice to deploy in 48 hours, but it is still unclear exactly where they will be needed and deployed.

On Monday Locog was left looking for 500 extra staff at the St James’s Park stadium in Newcastle for an Olympic football match on Thursday. The organisers are likely to turn to the army and the police for help.

G4S was tasked with recruiting and training teams for the x-ray machines, which include the key job of “screener” – who has to look at the x-ray image of a bag and decide whether there is anything untoward inside.

Almost all the training undertaken by G4S recruits involves computer simulations, with only a small period set aside to work on the machines themselves.

Trainees have to pass seven tests, or modules, and in each module they are shown images of 25 suspect bags. They can only pass if they have a pass rate of 75% or more.

But because the test is a multiple choice with only three possible answers, if a trainee gets it wrong first time, it is much easier next time round.

“Only two people out of a group of 40 passed the exam first time,” said one G4S trainee. “Those who failed were allowed to retake the exact same modules, endlessly repeating them until they scraped through. We were allowed to do the modules again and again, looking at the exact same bags, so by process of elimination you can pass the modules. You could retake the test as many times as you liked before the end of the day at 5pm.”

The source said the trainees were all talking to each other during the exam to help them get the right answers.

“There were two invigilators but no attempt was made to stop people cheating. There was a general hum in the room with people talking to each other. By the end of the day, the majority of the people in the class, more than three quarters, had passed.” This chimes with the experience of other trainees who have also contacted the Guardian.

The source, who has written a column for the Guardian about these experiences, said the training had not prepared recruits for working in these specialist roles.

“I don’t think the training has properly prepared people for working as ‘screeners’ on the x-ray machines. It is a really difficult job, and it is also mundane, which makes it more difficult. It is extraordinary that you are only given 20 minutes on the actual machine before you are deployed. The real machines are very different from the computer simulations we used in training. Even when you have passed the modules it doesn’t qualify you to work on the real machines.”

G4S said the computer based modules used for the tests were “designed and approved by Locog stakeholders” and that the actual “operation of the machine itself is taught in line with industry standards”.

Asked whether trainees were being allowed to cheat through their “virtual” x-ray training exams, a spokesman said the recruits could go through the test modules “at their own pace”.

The spokesman said the trainers did not tell them the right answers, though they could offer “advice and guidance.”

“It is not uncommon or wrong to repeat modules. Trainees are encouraged to ask questions and discuss concerns as this enhances their understanding of the tasks,” said the spokesman.

“X-ray operators are given industry-standard time at the machines. All screeners spend three to four hours in simulation exercises.”

However, the Guardian source added: “If you take the same test over and again, and the questions don’t change, then it isn’t really a test. During a subsequent session we were told that if we had cheated during the test we were putting lives at risk. But no attempt was made to stop this happening.”

The president of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge said on Monday he was in favour of the military being used to fill the gaps left by G4S. “They have found a solution. We are happy with it and we are very confident that security will be very, very good. The problem has been identified The company will compensate for the extra costs to the government and really it is time to move to a different issue. We are not going to enter in to a blame game. We are not going to point fingers because it is useless.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - July 24, 2012 at 08:22

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