Treading the fine blue line – the length of the 2012 Torch Relay

By , 18th April 2012 21:26

This is a little off-topic, but as SportingLandmarks was inspired by working on the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Baton Relay that acted as the curtain-raiser for the XVII Commonwealth Games in Manchester, I have a personal and professional interest in the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

When the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay visited London on a cold and snowy day in April 2008, we caught a glimpse of the logistics that are being put in place to accompany the Olympic Flame as it passes through 1024 villages, towns and cities across the British Isles between 18 May and 27 July.

In the wake of the disruption wreaked on the 2012 University Boat Race by a lone swimmer, there has been a flurry of media comment and speculation about the vulnerability of Olympic road races and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays. It was disruption of the Beijing Relay in a number of cities around the world that prompted the IOC to ban international legs for subsequent Torch Relays. London’s short but welcome visit to Dublin has been granted a special dispensation from Lausanne.

Police NEG

One of the two ACPO National Escort Groups which shared responsibility for policing the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Baton Relay

With twin responsibilities to both protect all participants and spectators while minimising the impact of the large vehicle convoys on local traffic, the security operation will be sophisticated. For the London Torch Relays, security will be on a bigger scale than for Manchester in 2002, not least because the Olympic Flame has a much higher profile than the Queen’s Baton of the Commonwealth Games.

Back in 2002, the police escort group was made up of police officers seconded from forces all over the country. Like the old adage about football referees, the philosophy of the security runners protecting the Baton was that they were doing a good job when they were unobtrusive. The way all the officers threw themselves into supporting the Baton Runners and engaging with the crowds along the route made a massive contribution to the overall Relay experience. At journey’s end, many of the officers considered their involvement to have been a highlight of their own careers.

As the video clip below shows, there can be dangers when too much security is deployed: a large security cordon can become more difficult to command and control.

London’s 2012 Relays have been pitched as giving inspirational Torch Bearers their “moment to shine”. Let’s hope that the security heads allow the Runners to make the most of their moments by successfully treading that very fine blue line between being unobtrusive and overwhelming.

Good luck!

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