Is That a Missile System on Your Roof? Olympic Security Plan Irks Londoners

Policing the world’s biggest peacetime logistics operation is a herculean task, and Britain’s intelligence and military officials are preparing for every eventuality — even if it means festooning a few apartment buildings with Rapier missiles

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Andrew Cowie / AFP / Getty Images

The Fred Wigg Tower, right, a proposed site for the stationing of surface-to-air missiles during the 2012 Olympic Games, is pictured in East London on June 30, 2012

The Fred Wigg and John Walsh tower blocks in East London share the same unfortunate look. Built in the 1960s, they’re identical concrete behemoths that rise 17 stories above Leytonstone — just 3 km from London’s Olympic Park. But following a decision by Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Fred Wigg Tower (FWT) will soon stand out from its neighbor. That’s because the government plans to install surface-to-air missiles on top of the apartment complex in the coming days to counter the potential of an airborne terrorist attack during the Olympic Games.

Policing the world’s biggest peacetime logistics operation is a herculean task, and Britain’s intelligence and military officials are preparing for every eventuality. Following similar moves by officials at the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2008 Games in Beijing, the MoD has confirmed its plans to install Rapier and high-velocity missile systems on top of FWT and five other sites throughout the capital. Rapiers can shoot down a Boeing 747 in the event terrorists hijack a plane and attempt to steer it into a venue. The mere presence of missiles will likely serve as a deterrent too. “We maintain that ground-based air defense on Fred Wigg Tower is an essential part of the multilayered air-security plan,” the MoD says.

(MORE: No Missiles on Our Roofs Please, We’re British)

The thought of living beneath a missile launchpad from mid-July until the end of the Olympics doesn’t sit well with the residents of buildings that will soon be crowned with missile installations. Tenants worry that they’ll become collateral damage in the event of a terrorist attack and that a missile response would send shrapnel flying into their apartments.

Back in May, after residents learned about the plans through leaflets from the MoD, they launched the Stop the Olympic Missiles campaign. Residents staged a protest march on June 30 against government plans, which were approved by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Defence Secretary. In one of the most reproduced images of the protest, an elderly woman holds a sign that says “No missiles on homes! No snipers on schools! No guns on streets!” Other signs simply read, “No missiles in our community” and “This is not a war zone.”

The residents of FWT want to keep it that way, so at the end of June they launched legal proceedings to halt the installation. The local residents’ association claimed that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees an individual’s right to a private life and peaceful enjoyment of their home. Marc Willers, the lawyer who represented the residents, told the court that setting up a military base during peacetime is unprecedented. “They have a fully justified fear that installation or deployment of the missile system on the roof of the Fred Wigg Tower gives rise to the additional risk that the tower itself may become the focus of a terrorist attack,” he said. “That fear is not just genuine and legitimate but justified given the nature of the forthcoming occasion — the Olympic Games — and given the nature of the deployment and the current threat level, which is said to be substantial.”

(LIST: Top 10 Worst Sport Terrorism Attacks)

But on July 10 a high-court judge rejected those claims, giving the government the all-clear to proceed. While delivering his verdict, Justice Charles Haddon-Cave suggested that the residents were not at risk and instead were “under something of a misapprehension” about the equipment. He also said the government was acting within the law. A day later lawyers representing the residents said they have decided to drop their case: the tenants simply cannot afford to appeal the court’s decision.

The verdict comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Olympic security. On July 8, the Home Office confirmed that authorities had caught a terrorist suspect passing through the Olympic Park in East London. The 24-year-old suspect allegedly traveled to Afghanistan four years ago to train as a jihadi. Officials say he has subsequently violated, on several occasions, an order that prevents him from traveling on the London Overground rail network. In at least one instance, he is alleged to have ridden a train line near the Olympic Park. In the past week, police have arrested 14 people on suspicion of terrorist activity, though authorities emphasize that none of those activities are linked to the Olympic Games.

Elsewhere the Sunday Times (of London) revealed last weekend that the London Committee for the Olympic Games faces a shortage of trained guards responsible for protecting key sites. Internal documents show that G4S, the security contractor responsible for training and supplying those guards, has been unable to provide even half of the 750 personnel needed at the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. Around 2,500 guards still need to undergo training and be vetted before the Games begin. Fortunately, on July 11 the BBC broke the news that the U.K.’s armed forces are on standby to offer a further 3,500 troops to help out with security at the Games. It’s unclear if there’s a connection between the shortage and the back-up.

(PHOTOS: Athletes Prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games)

As for the residents of Fred Wigg Tower, they can rest assured that missile deployment is only a last — and highly unlikely — resort. Any rogue plane passing through British airspace would first have to guide itself past a series of other defensive measures. They include Royal Air Force Typhoon jets, stationed at an air-force base in northwest London; Puma helicopters, stationed in Ilford, a commuter suburb in the northeast of the city; and helicopters on board H.M.S. Ocean, a navy assault ship currently moored on the Thames.

In a world where keeping the peace requires intimidating machinery, maybe faster, higher, stronger doesn’t just apply to athletes.


Due to our government's Home Office and GS4 blundering regarding the lack of security personnel, there's a very good chance of a terrorist slipping through, and I see nothing wrong with missiles on rooftops: it's a sensible action.

More of our armed forces should have been considered from the very beginning: there are only 10,000 in Afghanistan. I would rather be searched by a squaddy than some college student on summer break. GS4 are even recruiting people who can hardly speak English.

As for the Pakistani High Commissioner's views: he's someone in denial of any Muslim wrongdoing: check out his denials of the (proven) corruption in the Pakistani cricket team.

Philip Wood
Philip Wood

I cannot believe these ridiculous governments, who in their paranoia, enact laws that could potentially hurt  their own people. Of what "airborn terrorist attacks" are they afraid? From what history shows, only they are the culprits of creating such terror.

What is the point of spending all this money on an event, when throughout the world, we are apparently in austerity mode? And what enjoyment can there possibly be with all this fear and not just security but tens of thousands  of them intimidating everyone? I cannot fathom it at all.


This article should be re-edited and its offensive vocabulary replaced with politically correct Time-speak, same as applied to Israeli counter-terror-measures:

1.      The desperate people willing to crush a 747 into residential target are “militants” not terrorists. We should respect their rage for whatever reason they blame on Britons.

2.      Intercepting a civilian airplane based on suspicion of terrorist intention is illegal. Justice is a post-factum act, and doesn’t justify pre-emptive aggression by the state forces.

3.      Preventing crime by using superior military gadetery is a slap on the face of democratic multi-cultural civilian society. Drag these soldiers to The Hag and jail them with Milosevic et al.

4.      And if the result is a potential heroic act, that leaves a dozen foreign sportspersons dead, so what? Who cares! As long as no flying shrapnel hit these ugly buildings.

5.      It’s time for the human rights organizations, so beloved by clueless subjects of Her Majesty, to bury their noses in British affairs. We’ve had enough of you meddling in ME problems.   


If there was a terrorist attack necessitating the use of SAMs, shrapnel in my apartment would be the least of my concerns.


Can you imagine a large, fuelled jetliner being shot down over London?


Emman Youtwo
Emman Youtwo

if i were a tenant here, I'd put a large bulls eye sign over the building administrators office with these text. "come and get me motherf@<♂¶$‼" (of course, i'd tell everyone living near to evacuate temporarily most especially when US just lost a close game)

Jon Hagopian
Jon Hagopian

Silly article. They simply should be worried that its a complete waste of time. Not necessarily a waste of money benefiting the "military industrial complex perps", because they already own these systems and the missles. Its just a matter of putting them on the roof vs keeping them in an armory. 


Missile System on Your Roof?

On the contrary what London needs are eyes amp; ears on the GROUND to keep a watch on potentail trouble makers amongst its own populace.

In this context what's most credible are the statements from two top Muslims -  One

a) A Top Pakistani Diplomat, and the other

b) A reputed Indian-American journalist (Time/CNN)

Here's what each of them said:

c) Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Walid Shamsul Hassan threatened of terror unleashed on the streets of London by the over 1 million Pakistani immigrants if the drone strikes in Pakistan are not stopped…………..(Ref: Sunday Times Sept 8th 2008, and BBC video October 10th  2008).

d) Mr. Fareed Zakaria " The Danger comes from us (the US) and NOT them (Al-Qaeda amp; Muslim radicals). Ref: Reflections on 9/11 and its Aftermath” CNN-GPS Sept 9th. 2011 holding the US responsible for all the hatred in the Muslim world.

So, while it's ok to be vigilant on the threat from the radicals, it's FOOLHARDY to be complacent about the threats from "so-called" moderates who are directly or indirectly exposing the west to much greater danger.

Given that President Obama is reportedly actively considering Mr.Fareed Zakaria for the post of the US' Top Diplomat (US Sec. of State) in his second term, it only makes sense that we wake up to this danger sooner than later.

It's unnerving for many Americans and Europeans to even visualize such an eventuality given that Mr. Zakaria has been a leading proponent of every Muslim cause on the face of this planet (both real amp; percieved), a tireless advocate for greater Muslim immigration into Europe and America to offset their demogrpahic decline in the GARB of a keeping their economies competitive.


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I would love to have SAM installations on my roof!

Frank N. Blunt
Frank N. Blunt

The military industrial complex perps are about the most unjust and wasteful thieves as the kleptocrats and politicronies that they corrupt. The perps in government really are just as stupid, ignorant, and rife with hubris as they are corrupt. Although some assemblage of blather may make it through to become posted as some sordid law in this era of ethical challenges and moral hazards as well as blatant injustice, the legislation happens mostly be coercion and espousing cheap patriotism along with the accompanying back-scratching deals and hook ups, but that still does not make such blather just but truly characterized as breach of public trust, abuse of consentual authority, suppression of righteous dissent, and oppression of rights. No branch of government activity is innocent and without suspect. Along with the kleptocrats, politicronies, prejudges, and their goon squads, these games have become an opprortunity for corporateers to show their worse behavior. A trail of lies and injustice where risk and costs are socialized while several perps will benefit and profit.


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