Two weeks before the start of the London 2012 Olympics, its security arrangements began to fall apart. G4S, a private security company contracted to provide 10,000 security guards revealed that it would miss this target by several thousand. The government called in the army to provide the missing labour. Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, was called in front on a parliamentary committee to account for the failings, where he was forced to accept it was a ‘humiliating shambles’ for his company.

What was striking about this episode was its banality in the context of the largest British security operation since the Second World War. The G4S failure was due to vetting and recruitment problems, doubts about staff turning up for shifts, lack of internal company reporting mechanisms, and bad management generally. The press also reported a lack of staff schedules, uniforms or training on scanning machines. This…

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