To keep a check on the London Games being targeted by illegal immigrants or terrorists, more than 10,000 Olympic athletes and their coaches will have to undergo fingerprints and face-scans being taken by UK officials. The UK has decided to get biometric scans for all overses games athletes. UK government has launched international operation to gather information on Olympic participants and coaches.
A temporary terminal at Heathrow is already being built to try to take the pressure of the 20,000 accredited people as well as millions of ticketholders and visitors.
The Government is to step up the national terror threat to “severe” during the 16-day Games, meaning an attempted attack is highly possible.
Over the past few weeks, UK Border Agency staff, already in visa offices overseas, has started the meticulous task of taking biometric details of around 10,000 individuals.
Officials will visit international sporting events over the next few weeks to gather as much data in one place as possible. Each profile contains a facial image scan and 10 fingerscans, kept in a single digital record.
Ministers raise concern that besides the vast numbers of genuine “Games family members (GFMs)” – not only an estimated 10,500 athletes but their training teams, accredited media and officials– would-be terrorists or illegal immigrants could use the arrival of people at Heathrow in the days before the Games start on 27 July to get into Britain.
Athletes from some competing nations already have biometric information in their passports, and so do not need to hand their data over. But the Home Office considers there are 10,000 athletes and other team members who need to have details taken.
The extra security is needed because each Games family member will have an accredited pass to go into and out of the Olympic Village and venues without tough security checks.
Athletes will not be compelled to give scans in their own countries, but if they refuse they will have to offer the biometrics on arrival in the UK.
The UK Border Agency is providing dedicated Olympic lanes at Heathrow for GFMs to keep any delays to a minimum.
A Home Office spokesman said that collecting biometrics in advance of travel will increase security as GFM biometrics will be prechecked before arrival in the UK.
A Whitehall source said it was the first time an Olympic host nation had undertaken such an extensive biometrics operation.
The security onslaught applies to all foreign nationals in spite of whether they are enabled to a visa waiver – including those from the US.
The Home Office did not say how much the operation would cost, but said expenditure was being kept to a minimum because visa officials were already based in individual countries.
The Home Office said that rules for Paralympic family members will be imposed “bearing in mind the individual’s particular needs and requirements”.