Nick Hopkins and Owen Gibson

March 10, 2012

The statement published by the Ministry of Defence 10 days before Christmas was achingly upbeat, sprinkled with some of the department’s favourite cliches.

Setting out the military’s involvement in the security for this summer’s London Olympics, the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, spoke of the forces’ pride in taking part in this “once-in-a-generation event”, of their professionalism and agility, and of his belief that they would all do a fantastic job.

He omitted to mention the fractious meetings that took place months beforehand, the irritation of many military commanders – and the remarkable mistake that provoked so much anguish across Whitehall. It was a mistake that rattled confidence in security planning, and could yet force hundreds of armed forces families, including some with relatives now fighting in Afghanistan, to abandon their summer holidays.

Last summer, five years after London was chosen to host the Games, and less than 12 months before the start of the Olympics, the event’s organising committee, Locog, realised it had a problem.

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