Regular Infologue.com columnist , Chris Cully of Dillitas, takes a look at the topic of the “lone loon” and the impact one individual can have on an event. Chris writes; “As a Cambridge supporter and a seasoned Thames oarsman, I settled down on Saturday 7th April 2012 with chums at Dittons skiff club to watch the Boat Race. With beer in hand and great expectations of the event to come, the race began, the crews set off, the expectant crowd cheered. Within a few minutes, one of the great British sporting events is in chaos, due to a lunatic antipodean who decided to go for a dip in the river in the middle of the race.
As confusion ensued, said suicidal antipodean was oiked from the oggin and passed to Plod. University crews returned to new start point, umpire & supporting boats about-turned and chugged back into place and, finally, the race restarted. From thereon, everything went downhill with boats clashing and an oar breaking and, to cap it all, the Oxford bowman collapsing. As our Club Captain was heard to say, with a long shake of his old head, “Never seen the like of it nor hopefully will I again”.
Whilst early reports claimed that Crocodile Dundee was in the river because Samantha Brick was waving to him from the other bank, it quickly became clear that this single, determined act, by a man protesting against ‘Elitism’, (whatever or whoever they are but apparently they come from Whitechapel!) brought a long-established, well-policed, world-renowned sporting event, within minutes, to a complete debacle in which nobody took any pleasure or pride.
Naturally, the security industry watched these events with trepidation as the security concerns for the forthcoming summer events loom ever larger like darkening clouds on the horizon. The Olympics, of course, holds centre stage for these concerns. However, prior to the fireworks going wild in Stratford, two major river events are yet to take place, which have the police, intelligence services and river authorities, doing everything possible to ensure they pass off safely; namely the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant and the Olympic Torch travelling down river from Hampton Court to Stratford.
On the 3rd June, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will lead 1000 different types of vessels of varying sizes down river from Putney to Greenwich. Incorporated with the 1000 participating craft, will be passenger boats containing some 30,000 flag waving, ecstatic subjects. This will be the largest flotilla ever assembled on the Thames and is a massive headache for police & river agencies, all tasked to protect the Royal family, VIPs’ and those participating, of which I shall proudly be one. The security concerns range from rogue boats attempting to disrupt the event, people being in the wrong place at the wrong time, criminal or terrorist acts, people dropping items from the bridges and indeed, the “loan wolf” jumping from a bridge onto the Royal Barge or swimming into the middle of the river.
Six weeks after this event, the Olympic Flame will begin the final part of its journey from Hampton Court, down river to the Olympic Stadium. Notwithstanding the potential for disruption by protestors during the Torch’s journey around the UK on dry land, the risk to the safe and un-disrupted Olympic Flame’s final trip down river has now increased.
The Boat Race has identified the singular risk most likely to occur at any local, national or international public event: the one most difficult to anticipate, to prevent and police; the one that causes the biggest headache to the security industry; namely that of ‘The Lone Loon’. History recounts in abundance, and last Saturday’s event demonstrated once again, that the action of the lone individual is the most disruptive and damaging to the reputation of the event and those involved. This is nothing new. Think back to 4th June 1913, when Emily Davison, a determined Suffragette, threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby. Leap forward to the Fathers For Justice and their recent escapades. Remember the actions of the lone protestor(s) over the last 20 years, in this country and abroad, and you have a vast selection of events to draw upon.
The common factors between these loan protestors are the same now as they were in 1913:
- Do something that people would not expect
- Do it on your own or with trusted protestors
- Do something that is outrageous, dangerous or indeed, fatal, which will cause massive disruption to the event
- Ensure as much publicity as possible.
- Be prepared for arrest and conviction.
Notwithstanding the Olympic Torch travelling around the UK, the cycling & marathon events around London and the suburbs are another perfect opportunity for disruption. As we move rapidly to the unique circumstances that will define the UK’s ability to host and deliver major events upon the international stage, the incident at this years’ Boat Race show how precariously hangs the success of the UK security mission this summer.