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London 2012: Gravesend-based officers part of Olympic Torch security team

21:31 18 May 2012

Pc Andy Thomas is on the Olympic Torch security team

Pc Andy Thomas is on the Olympic Torch security team

Archant

Three officers based in Gravesend are among the special team of protecting the Olympic Flame during the torch relay.

The Met Police’s torch security team (TST) is made up of around 70 staff and officers, with 35 of these running alongside the Torch.

Traditionally it is the responsibility of the host city’s police force to guard the Flame, and it is written into the host city’s contract.

Among the team are Pc Andy Thomas, Pc Stuart Tracey and Pc Claire Young.

Pc Young has been a serving officer for 10 years, and is currently an officer safety trainer based in Gravesend. Before this she worked in Camden.

The 33-year-old enjoys sport and competed as an athlete when she was younger. She was inspired by a meeting with her Olympic heroes Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson, and was taught triple jump by the Commonwealth gold medalist Ashia Hansen.

She said: “No matter what’s going on in the world you can bring people together through sport. That sums up what the Olympics is all about; it’s just a brilliant way of getting people together.

“I wanted to join the torch security team as there are going to be 8,000 people carrying the torch each having their own moment, their own chance to shine. I wanted to be part of that and part of what the Olympics stands for.”

Pc Thomas, 39, has been a serving MPS officer for 21 years, and was also a police cadet before that. He is currently a public order instructor based in Gravesend.

He said: “The Olympics are the ultimate sporting event - it’s the event every athlete wants to win. It’s truly inspirational and the atmosphere is going to be amazing.”

Pc Tracey has been a police officer since 1988 and has served as a public order training officer based at the Met’s specialist training centre in Gravesend for the last eight years.

The 42-year-old once represented the British Police Service at the World Police and Fire Games in Barcelona. He boxed on the same canvas that was used in the 1992 Olympic Games.

He said: “I’m sure there will be a lot of highs and some lows during those 70 days, but I’m sure bringing the torch back to London, and being MPS officers, will be a special time for the whole team.

“Seeing the streets of London come alive and celebrating is when the Olympics will truly start in the Capital.”

The TST, which started its duties when the Flame was handed to the London 2012 delegation in Athens, will be responsible for the safety and security of the Olympic and Paralympic Flames, and the immediate protection of the torchbearer holding the Flame.

The team will remain with the Flame until it arrives in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on July 27, and the same team will also travel with the Paralympic Flame.

In addition to the runners, the team includes motorcyclists, senior officers to make command and tactical decisions, communication officers to relay messages to the torch security team and operational planners.

Officers on motorbikes will travel ahead of the relay to check there are no changes on the route, while those on bikes will liaise with the torchbearer about to receive the Olympic Flame.

A minimum of three TST escorts will keep a pace with the torch bearer who is carrying the flame, forming a protective bubble around them. Officers will travel on a range of modes of transport and run up to 30 miles a day.

The team of officers were chosen from 664 applications, and were selected in 2010. The team had an eight month selection process, which included practical and written assessments, covering fitness, leadership, team building and communication skills.

Officers have been trained in self defence, first aid, communication and media handling.

They will be wearing charcoal running suits, with the MPS crest on the front right hand side of the top. The only equipment they will carry is a police radio.

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