In the Media

London 2012 Olympics: torch relay police officers 'to get counselling'

PUBLISHED April 21, 2012

The Metropolitan Police admitted the group would receive support from "Occupational health specialists" before and after the 70-day relay.

Britain's biggest police force also admitted disclosed that they would be given psychological training on how to prepare themselves for being away from home.

Officials also admitted the group would also have access to career advisers to help them settle back into their day jobs after their two-month assignment was finished and would be offered counselling to help them "reintegrate".

It is thought that taxpayers will fund the plans, which officials said was to ensure the "welfare" of 36 officers was "considered at every stage".

In total, 52 officers will protect the Olympic torch as fears heighten that the relay around Britain and the Republic of Ireland will be targeted by radicalised protest groups.

The Met Police's torch relay protection will comprise five teams of seven officers running alongside and around the torch flame bearer to prevent any chaotic scenes that accompanied the Beijing Olympic torch relay four years ago.

The additional police numbers are made up of planners and command and control. During the Games the security threat is rated as severe and the torch relay team has been training as if the likelihood of an attack is imminent.

The officers chosen for the security team are said to be "among the fittest" in the force. The cost of the operation has not been disclosed.

On Friday a full dress rehearsal of the torch relay was enacted for 80 miles between Leicester and Peterborough.

It involved 14 cars and trucks in the convoy and up to a further 90 vehicles, such as sponsor vehicles and the BBC accompanying the relay.

Seven Met runners flanked the torchbearers for a gentle jog through the streets and the group were also escorted by a police cyclist, named only as "Cyclist One".

Torch bearers will run or walk nearly 1000 feet with the torch, which was not lit for the rehearsal.

Local roads were also closed to traffic on a rolling basis for 15 minutes in advance of the torch arrival and reopen 30 minutes later.

While various anti-sponsor protests have escalated in recent weeks with more being organised in the lead-up to the Games, experts on the IRA are warning the torch relay is vulnerable to attack.

The actual torch relay will start from Land's End in Cornwall next month after the arrival of the Olympic flame in the UK on May 18.

On its journey to the opening ceremony on July 27, the torch will be carried by about 7,300 nominated members of the public, athletes and celebrities.

Each will carry the flame for about 300 yards and about 110 people will take part each day. On Friday night, a Met police spokesman defended the plans, reported in the Daily Mail.

"We recognise that this is unique role never performed within British policing," he said.

"Mindful of the fact that officers will be taken away from their homes for 70 days and encouraged to live as part of a team, their reintegration back into the Met after the event is already being carefully planned.

"Occupational health specialists within the Met are already developing plans to ensure that the welfare of this team is considered at every stage and the best possible support provided."

The spokesman said that preparations included "talking to them about their career aspirations and encouraging them to plan ahead for when they are away from home".

Paul Deighton, the London organising committee (Locog) chief executive, has pleaded that the torch relay be allowed to showcase "ordinary people who have done extraordinary things for the community".

"It would be absolutely terrible to ruin that moment for these people, I don't know why anyone would want to do that (protest or interrupt the relay)," he said.