Olympic chief fears repeat of protest

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Old 09-Apr-2012
Olympic chief fears repeat of protest

London: Britain's Olympic chief fears the London Games could be marred by a repeat of the protest that disrupted Saturday's Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities in the capital.

Trenton Oldfield jumped into the River Thames and appeared to deliberately cross the path of the rowers halfway through the 158th Boat Race in a protest against elitism and privilege. He was arrested and later charged with a public order offence.

With less than four months until London hosts the Olympics, the incident has highlighted concerns about the safety of competitors at events where the public will line the route, including the rowing, open water swimming, marathon and road cycling.

"It just takes, and is likely to be, one stupid person," British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said. "It's not likely to be a well-orchestrated campaign through Twitter or websites. It is likely to be someone similar to the one who caused Saturday's major disruption.

"That is why all the security measures need to be put in place to minimise the chance of that happening. You can never completely remove it, but you can do everything possible to protect the interests of the athletes by minimising it."

Moynihan, who sits on the board of the London Olympics organising committee, said that "every conceivable scenario" is being assessed.

"Both the police and security operations around all venues and athletes are being reviewed on a day by day basis," he told the BBC.

There was a fan intrusion during the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was leading the race when he was shoved off the course by spectator Cornelius Horan, an Irish priest who was later defrocked. De Lima eventually finished third.

Moynihan said that unless events were sanitised by removing all crowds, the threat of a protest will never be removed.

But the former Olympic rowing silver medallist stressed that security operations for the games are not just focused on the July 27-August 12 period when the competitions are taking place.

"You are talking about the pre-games training camps these athletes will come well in advance and be based around the country you've got the torch relay coming up, you've got the live sites, and the public needs to be protected," Moynihan said.

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