News In Depth
Boris hears soldiers' ticket plea
Soldiers have complained about boredom and a lack of Olympics tickets as Boris Johnson visited their warehouse base in London.
Some troops watched Britain win another rowing gold medal and posed for pictures with London Mayor Mr Johnson, but others told stories of missing holidays, having nothing to do while on standby or on downtime and their accommodation being "horrible".
Drafted in as security back-up in the wake of the G4S scandal, some 2,000 military personnel now eat, live and sleep in Tobacco Dock in east London.
One soldier looked on as the mayor watched the Games on TV with soldiers eating lunch. But he was nonplussed about Mr Johnson's visit.
"It's all right I guess, bit of free publicity," the soldier, who did not want to be named, said.
"To be honest, I don't like it here, it's horrible."
Another group of four soldiers spoke to Mr Johnson in the eating area.
One of the group, Cornet Harry Thomas, of the Household Cavalry, said his unit was only on standby and so they spent most of their time waiting to be called into action.
But in their downtime they could not get tickets.
He explained: "Because we're not assigned to a venue a lot of our boys haven't been able to get in and see any of the Games.
"It is a shame. I understand the difficulty but I think potentially there is some scope for excess tickets, particularly if there are spare seats around the stadiums.
"Some of the guys tried to get in the venues a few days ago and had varying success. Part of the problem is that there doesn't seem to be a universal policy."
Asked what he thought about Mr Johnson's visit, Cornet Thomas said: "It's good, it's good that he's coming to see other elements of the Games, not just the athletes sort of performing but also behind the scenes and security. I think it's great that he's come and had the chance to chat some of the guys."
Asked about the timing of the Mayor's visit, he said: "I heard about it yesterday so obviously it's easy to be cynical about it. But I don't know."
He added: "The problem is, this clashes with leave. A lot of the boys had plans for when they were on leave. I don't think it (the tickets) would make up for it but I think what it would do is it would give them a bit of focus in their downtime and something to do."
Two soldiers who work in the kitchen said they were now stationed outside the main warehouse after the fire service deemed the original indoor cooking area unsafe.
They now work outside, serving half a ton of sausages for breakfast every morning and pie and chips for lunch, among other meals.
One of them, who did not give his name, remained positive.
"What can you do really?" he said. "People can complain all they want but we feed 2,000 people here every day, some of them with three or four meals a day. They can't complain really."
Mr Johnson said of his visit: "It's been a chance for me to thank them and congratulate them and listen to what they have got to say - some of them want more free tickets - that's difficult to organise with a snap of the fingers.
"I think there will always be some people who are positive and some people who are less positive but the reaction I'm getting is that they are enjoying a very unusual and memorable operation, something they will keep with them for the rest of their lives."
Following a pledge from the mayor, all military personnel travelling in London for the duration of the Games and Paralympic Games, whether in uniform or not, have been granted free travel on all services operated by Transport for London, including the Tube and buses. The concession will last until September 11.