Olympics Police Could Be Stationed On Cruise Ship

Hundreds of police officers drafted in to protect the 2012 Olympic Games could be stationed on a cruise ship.

Organisers are discussing plans to spend up to £6.6 million mooring a private boat at Portland Harbour for the sporting extravaganza.

The 432-room vessel could be filled by around 800 officers working to protect competitors in the Weymouth sailing events.

But officials are split over the proposal because they fear officers may misbehave and a public backlash against the use of a holiday vessel.

When Canadian police chiefs brought in three cruise liners for the Vancouver Winter Games they saw a spike in complaints of misconduct.

There was a spate of allegations of drunkenness, unwanted sexual advances and mislaid guns among the thousands of officers stationed on board.

Large-scale events such as the 2009 London G20 meeting and 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit have led to similar increases in misconduct allegations.

One source said Dorset police leaders preferred floating accommodation because it was relatively cheap and would be on the doorstep of the events.

He said: "Extensive research has identified the use of an accommodation vessel to be the most cost-effective solution, as was the case in Vancouver.''

Last month there was anger among Portland residents when it was announced athletes would stay on housing built on a sports field instead of a boat.

Most officers would be asked to "hot bunk'' with each other by sharing cabins and sleeping in shifts to keep costs down.

The vessel would also be used as a briefing, deployment and feeding centre for officers stationed onboard and on land.

The eye-catching move is one solution for emergency service organisers struggling to find beds for thousands of police, paramedics and firefighters.

They discovered Olympic organisers and travel firms had already booked huge swathes of hotel rooms, forcing up prices and leaving few unoccupied.

The accommodation bill has already soared from £19 million to £33 million, partly because many officers demanded hotel rooms for "operational reasons''.

Organisers must find 132,000 "bed nights'' for everyone from bodyguards to marksmen, drivers, catering staff and technicians.

Police officers will be drafted in from across the country to secure the Games under a system known as mutual aid and they need somewhere to stay.

In London, the majority of staff will stay in university halls, with senior officers, on-call colleagues and specialist teams in £200-a-night hotels.

Organisers considered sailing four cruise liners or "floatels'' up the River Thames and mooring them at Tilbury Docks, in east London.

But they ruled out the move because of the high cost, lack of security and because it was too far from the Olympic site.

They also vetoed putting officers up in military barracks, holiday camps and temporary tent villages on Wanstead Flats and Blackheath.

Officials are now in talks with four universities to secure beds in buildings in Hatfield, Deptford, Hendon and Uxbridge.

Police have abandoned a plan to use privately-owned Battersea Power Station as a temporary deployment centre because of questions over access.

And they must change a 19th century law protecting the Epping Forest to station a headquarters at Wanstead Flats for three months.

Weymouth and Portland will host all sailing and windsurfing events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games between July 27 and September 9.

An Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman said:

"Two years out, the police service continues to develop plans around both the number of officers required for the London 2012 policing operation and the necessary logistics to support them, including accommodation.

"Nationally, a number of options are under consideration, with the preferred solution for the majority likely to be university halls-style accommodation.

"With further work needed to refine what is required, no final decisions have been taken.''

A spokeswoman for Locog, which is responsible for staging the Games, said a "substantial number'' of hotels had already been booked for staff, officials and delegates.