Article author Claire Thorn

Claire Thorn: ‘Is there life after the police – oh yes there is!’

How using the invaluable skills and knowledge gained during my 30 years policing service helped me not only get the position of Commonwealth Games Venue Security Cluster Manager but ensured I played my part in delivering a safe and secure Commonwealth Games.

With over 1.3 million tickets sold and 450 athletes competing in 280 medal events taking place across 15 venues, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was described as a triumph for the city – both in a sporting sense and as a spectacle. But, with so much activity taking place in venues spread across the West Midlands, securing the event posed a significant challenge.

When Birmingham was announced as host to the 22nd Commonwealth Games I knew I would be working in some form on it. I had already been building my portfolio of sporting event planning mainly in the swimming world, with Swim England and British Swimming as well as Managing the PSUK swimming team for 20 years. Little did I think I would be given the opportunity to stay on past my 30 years; with 18 months service to go I landed a job as the Counter Terrorism representative on the West Midlands Police Commonwealth Games Planning Team.

All was going well until COVID struck and although I was loving my job I lost the appetite of being a police officer and in September 2020, at my 30 years point, I retired knowing I may not be able to work on the Commonwealth Games, a gamble I was prepared to take and I knew I could volunteer at the pool if no job was forthcoming.

I was initially taken on as a Cluster Manager for the National Exhibition Centre (Netball, Weightlifting, Para Power lifting, Boxing, Badminton & Table Tennis as well as the International Broadcast Centre) as well as all the Greenfield Venues of Smithfields (3×3 Basketball/Beach Volleyball; Sutton Park (Triathlon and Para Tri); Victoria Park (Lawn Green Bowls); West Park (Time Trial); Warwick (Road Race) & Cannock Chase (Mountain Biking).

To land such a role as my first job outside of the policing bubble was quite incredible but 12 months into my position I was asked to take over the planning and delivery at the Alexander Stadium which hosted both Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as 12 sessions of world class athletics and para athletics. I was both delighted and scared in equal measure!

In my role I was responsible for managing the physical security of the venue which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the track and field athletics and para-athletics, for the 2022 Commonwealth Games which is no ordinary role. My understanding of processes within the police ensured a more streamlined collaborative effort with the event security team to protect the games. Did we agree on everything? No. But nor should we – it’s about understanding each other’s aims and responsibilities, and then working through them together when delivering an event of this magnitude. Managing the security processes for the opening and closing ceremonies would never have happened without a lot of communication between us – we needed police search dogs to cover searching the 72 cars, as just one example of many.

I took charge of the delivery of all the physical security measures at the Alexander Stadium. Specified as the only ‘tier one’ sporting venue – meaning that it required the most robust security measures outside of the villages – measures included a 2.3km security fence (both rapid deployment and lightweight), 114 CCTV overlay cameras, 53 X-ray machines and 53 walk through metal detectors (WTMD).

Working on the Games in security was certainly challenging, especially when I had not originally been part of the planning for Alexander Stadium, so there was a lot to get up to speed with quickly. There were many long hours and some lows along the way, but overall it was such an amazing experience. Athletics had over 300,000 spectators across the six days of sport.

I am immensely proud of what I have delivered and achieved over the past 18 months. I have met some amazing people and I’m now looking forward to finding my next project which will excite and challenge me!