Olympics: Recruits Told To Forge Exam Qualifications And Handed Bogus Documents.
Olympic chiefs have launched an urgent investigation after stewards responsible for the safety of thousands of spectators were told to forge exam qualifications. Whistle blower Claudia Blunt, the daughter of Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt, today exposes how lives could have been put at risk after students recruited to help at the Games were fed the answers to a crucial safety exam instead of doing the 12 months of study it normally takes. And the Cambridge student reveals how:
In a dimly-lit nightclub, around 80 recruits were given bogus documentation bearing the name of a college that does not even offer the safety qualification.
The would-be stewards were told to exaggerate their experience if questioned by Olympic organisers.
None of the students was subject to criminal background checks.
The recruits were told that even though they had no first aid training, they might have to provide medical attention.
Scandal: About 250,000 people will watch volleyball at Earls Court where Whistle blower Claudia Blunt and other unqualified stewards were due to work
Inside job: Claudia Blunt was allowed into Earls Court, where she was able to take this picture showing the preparations, with minimal security checks
The scandal at an independent firm contracted to provide stewards raises urgent new questions over London 2012, just days after security firm G4S admitted it could not provide enough guards to patrol the Games. But whereas the Army have been called in to fill the G4S shortfall, the unqualified stewards could be in charge of the safety of hundreds of thousands of spectators during any possible emergency – and without Ms Blunt’s exposé might have remained unnoticed.
After the superficial ‘training’ session in Oxford nightclub Wahoo, the recruits paid a visit to the Earls Court exhibition centre in London, where 15,000 people will watch each of 16 Olympic volleyball sessions.
They were not searched, nor did they have their identity checked, yet they were told codewords for possible emergencies such as chemical spills or bomb scares. Last night Ms Blunt said: ‘The idea of living with the guilt of an incident taking place and 15,000 lives in my hands was too much to bear. I realised that something simply had to be said.’
Dad: Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt whose daughter exposed the shocking safety breach
A spokesman for London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) said an investigation had been launched into how the contract for 1,200 stewards at venues in Earls Court, Box Hill and Greenwich had been handled. Ms Blunt was recruited through a company called Tungsten SIA, based in Witney, Oxfordshire – David Cameron’s constituency. However Locog had commissioned a larger firm, London and Leeds-based AP Security, to provide the stewards – and said APS breached its agreement by sub-contracting the work without permission. Ms Blunt, a 20-year-old politics and economics student at Cambridge University’s Downing College, approached The Mail on Sunday to expose the gaping safety flaws after going to a ‘training night’ in Oxford, held by Tungsten SIA. The company normally supplies pub bouncers among other staff. The event took place on July 10, the day before the G4S scandal broke. The company had targeted students, so was able to pay them £6 an hour – below the £6.08 minimum wage for adults, but above the £4.98 minimum for under-21s. Ms Blunt says: ‘Initially, I was overjoyed at the prospect of working at the Games but my suspicions were aroused when I arrived in the semi-lit nightclub. I couldn’t see how a training day for a supposedly reputable security company could possibly take place here. ‘The supervisor asked the group if anyone had to be anywhere later on that evening. I said I had to be somewhere at 6pm, so she said, “Right. This will be a quick one”.’ The exam papers, for the Level 2 NVQ in ‘spectator safety, were headed ‘Bishop Auckland College’, an institution that none of the students had heard of. The test consisted of several pages of multiple choice questions. Locog stipulates this qualification – which normally takes six to 12 months of study – is the minimum for Olympic stewards. Ms Blunt said: ‘The woman read out the questions and then gave us the answers. They told us to put down only our GCSEs as qualifications. She whistled through it and at one point even said, “It’ll look better if you get some of the answers wrong.” ’ The students were told to sign their exam papers but were told, on several occasions, not to date them. Ms Blunt said: ‘She told us that we were meant to complete the course in 12 months so everything would have to be backdated. There was one date we were allowed to put in. She told us to state that we had worked for Tungsten SIA since March 2011.’ The recruits were told that they may be asked to provide first aid on site at the Olympics although none of them had any first aid training or medical knowledge. They were then invited to a second ‘training’ day at Earls Court last Wednesday. Ms Blunt and the other recruits accessed the site with limited security checks. Ms Blunt said: ‘We hadn’t yet collected our accreditation documents and still we weren’t searched. We just handed our names into the desk and were let into the venue. No one checked a photo ID. ‘And as we went in and out of the venue on breaks we could re-enter with no checks at all. No one stopped us. We could have been anyone.’
Unlikely classroom: Recruits received their so-called training in oxford Street's Wahoo nightclub
During a tour of the venue, one man introduced himself as ‘James’, an employee of AP Security. He appeared to believe that the new recruits did have the proper qualifications. ‘We were told the codewords we needed to use for possible problems, things that could happen such as chemical spills, a bomb scare, a disturbance,’ Ms Blunt said. ‘They kept explaining to us that if anything happened we should “follow procedures” but because we hadn’t been properly trained none of us knew what the procedures were. We had no idea what to do if anything happened. They seemed to think we’d know how to evacuate people, but we didn’t know any of it. ‘We were told that if anything happened that we were to herd the public out the building and to tell them to disperse, and above all not to make any promises about ticket refunds.’ At this point Ms Blunt and two fellow recruits, who wish to remain anonymous, decided to approach The Mail on Sunday. Ms Blunt said: ‘With the eyes of the world focused on the Olympic Park, it is the supplementary venues that are clear targets. I had the prospect of something going terribly wrong on my watch. I realised that something simply had to be said. I decided to blow the whistle. ‘If, even with a few days to go, it means staff members losing work but being replaced with the infinitely more qualified Army, that will be enough. ‘I will be able to rest easy knowing that the estimated 240,000 spectators due to attend the 16 volleyball sessions at Earls Court will be much more secure than if I or my companions had been attempting to protect them.’ Ms Blunt had applied to Tungsten SIA in good faith to be a steward at one of three Olympic sites at Box Hill, Earls Court and Greenwich Park. It is believed that the company is providing 240 staff to Earls Court. Their tasks are to include escorting people in and out of the venue as well as providing court-side security during volleyball matches. They are also expected to be able to spot unusual behaviour including bomb threats and fights breaking out.
Speaking out: Claudia Blunt reveals the 'sham' training she received to monitor London 2012 crowds
Ms Blunt says Tungsten employed a student at Oxford Brookes University as a ‘recruitment manager’ who then set up a Facebook page to communicate with its new recruits and tell them to turn up at 5pm at Wahoo nightclub. The club previously hit the headlines in 2010, when a flirtatious Hugh Grant visited in the company of nine young girls. When recruits arrived at the club a Tungsten employee handed them the exam papers in spectator safety and then asked them to fill them in while she read out the answers. The NVQ, which covers such areas as dealing with crowd problems, managing conflict and coping with accidents and emergencies, usually takes students between 85 and 433 hours of study to pass, according to the City and Guilds website. A second recruit told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It was quite a serious qualification we were being put up for and we’d been told to commit exam fraud.’ After the 45-minute farce, the students were told they could go to the Olympics’ Uniform Distribution & Accreditation Centre to pick up their identification passes. They were also invited to a tour of Earls Court. The students say they were unclear who exactly their employer was, and the chain of command. A student, who had been on another training day, went to collect her pass and when she told officials she was working for Tungsten SIA, was asked ‘Who are they?’ The student called Tungsten and says she was told to say she was an employee of AP Security. The second recruit says: ‘We were told we may need to do some first aid. I’m a business student and not at all medically trained. I don’t know the first thing about first aid but I was being told I may have to carry it out. I assume that we would have known, had we actually got an NVQ.’ A third recruit told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The disregard for safety was worrying. We were all clueless about what we were doing.’ Ms Blunt says: ‘We heard of people standing outside universities in London recruiting people. They wanted students because we’re cheap. ‘On the tour of Earls Court, I felt like a complete fraud. I realised that if anything happened it would be on my conscience and so I took the decision to leave.’ Ms Blunt resigned from the job by text and was never paid. But on Friday she received a barely-punctuated text from her Tungsten recruiter, effectively trying to silence her from speaking to the media. It read: ‘Due to the recent interest involving events in the UK I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that as per your contracts that you have all accepted a non disclosure terms and conditions in you [sic] contracts …prohibits you from disclosing induction training and selection information…. This includes but is not limited to reporters and members of the press.’ In a statement last night, Locog said: ‘We are investigating this situation. We have contracted AP Security as one of a number of organisations to provide us with trained stewards for our venues. ‘AP Security has not asked us if they can sub-contract to any other organisation. To do so, they need our permission, and this has not been sought or granted.’ A spokeswoman for Bishop Auckland College said the college does not offer the Level 2 NVQ in spectator safety, adding: ‘We did not deliver the training The Mail on Sunday is investigating.’ Yesterday, there was no sign of Tungsten SIA directors at their homes near Oxford. At the £350,000 bungalow surrounded by CCTV cameras in Standlake, listed as the address of director Glen Dunnett, no one answered. However, a man and a woman were heard coughing loudly at the same time from an open window, and at one point a muffled ‘Fuck off’ punctuated the coughing. Similarly, there was no sign of AP Security operations directors Kevin Lawrence or Martyn Webster at their respective homes in Northwood, Middlesex and Sutton, Surrey. Earlier, Andrew Stephens, General Manager of AP Security, said: ‘We have our own contracts with the Olympics and did not sub-contract to Tungsten SIA.’ He admitted he had heard of Tungsten SIA, but added: ‘We’ve taken a company decision that, because of media interest in Olympics security, there is really nothing to communicate to the media on this. ‘We have taken advice from Locog on this as well. Our company will decline any interviews.’ When asked about Tungsten SIA faking NVQ qualifications, Mr Stephens reiterated: ‘We are not giving any comment on Olympic related or security-related issues until after the Olympics are finished.’ A Labour official said: ‘The Government must get a grip of this situation. Everyone is looking forward to enjoying the Games in a few days’ time but this is yet another blunder which Ministers must deal with. ‘We must ensure safety and security around the Olympics are the best they can be. We need answers on these serious allegations.’