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Helen Mirren impressed by troops who secured the Olympics

posted 12 Aug 2012, 12:07 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Aug 2012, 12:08 ]

Actress Helen Mirren comes out to support the British troops as they leave their temporary barracks after filling in a shortfall in staffing needed to secure the Olympic Games.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 12, 2012)(REUTERS) - Better known for their role in global conflicts and emergencies, the British military is now being acclaimed for defusing a crisis closer to home after stepping in to help guard the Olympic Games.

While competing athletes may have wowed the crowds at Olympic venues, the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Britain's armed forces have won over spectators with their smiles, cheeky quips and friendly banter.

On Sunday (August 12), they paraded through London's east end and enjoyed curry in the famous Brick lane after successfully securing the Games.

Volunteers and local residents came out to show their support for the troops, who filled in a shortfall in security staffing after a private company admitted it could not find the staff needed to secure the Games.

Among the supporters was Hollywood actress Helen Mirren.

"As a Wapping resident I have been very aware of them being here, and also as a guest at the Olympics and seeing what an incredible job they did with the security at the Olympics. You know, we all felt really like we were in safe hands. It was beautifully organised. They were incredibly welcoming and fun, so you know these guys did a fantastic job," she said.

The military had always been tapped to play a role in the Olympics, but when security firm G4S revealed two weeks before the start of the Games that it would not be able to provide enough guards, the government asked the armed forces to step in.

That raised fears that the presence of large numbers of personnel in military fatigues would make the Games appear too militarised and scare visitors off.

But those concerns have proved unfounded, and instead, the soldiers have built up a rapport with the public and their professionalism is viewed by many as comforting.

"We have the top games in the world, once in a lifetime on our doorstep, and it is our job together to protect our community, the athletes, people who are visiting us. And in times of need the services, the army are always called on to help us out, and they've done a fantastic job. It's been an absolute pleasure, an honour to welcome them in my borough, and the relationship between the community and the services has been fantastic," said Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets borough in East London.

The overall experience at the Games had been a positive one for the armed forces.

"We've had a marvellous welcome. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to be able to serve the community in this way and be part of these magnificent games. The welcome couldn't have been warmer. We've been delighted," said Commodore Martin Atherton, Regional Commander East of England.

The head of of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also praised the work of the troops on Sunday (August 12).

"The military was just wonderful. They were very competent, very helpful, big smile, always there to help people. So they were a big part of the success of the games. We have already expressed our thanks to the forces," IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a press conference.

Many of the 18,000 servicemen and women on duty had to sacrifice leave and holidays to screen visitors and guard the sports arenas, a big departure from their usual role fighting insurgents, defusing bombs or patrolling Afghan villages.