With £9.3billion being spent on the Olympics, the organisers could be forgiven for thinking they had prepared for every eventuality.
But London could suffer a space storm during the games – causing power cuts, damaging communication satellites and forcing planes to divert.
London Olympics organisers admitted today they were ‘monitoring the situation carefully’ after the Met Office warned the next solar storm may occur during the games next year.
Chaos? London could suffer a space storm during the Olympics, potentially hitting the power supply, damaging communication satellites and forcing planes to divert
Weather experts told the Commons science and technology committee: ‘Extreme space weather events typically occur at the solar maximum, which itself follows a roughly 11-year cycle.
‘The next solar maximum is expected around 2012-13 — potentially coinciding with the London Olympic Games.’
It is only the most extreme solar storms that cause chaos, and Olympic organisers do not believe there is a ‘significant risk’ of major disruption.
Illuminated: The night sky in Eureka, Alaska, was lit up in 2003 after a solar storm hit the earth. The London Olympics could also be affected, the Met Office have admitted
Severe space weather struck in March 1989 in Quebec, Canada. On that occasion it also had an impact on British power systems.
In Sweden in October 2003 airline flights, power networks and spacecraft operations were affected.
A team of experts is working on how Britain would respond to a powerful space storm after scientists assessed the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ in the next five years to be more ‘severe’ than previously thought.
The Government Office for Science and the Cabinet Office said such threats had now been included on the National Risk Assessment due to ‘indications that the severity of future space weather events may be much greater than those experienced in 1921, 1989 and 2003’.
The most powerful solar storm to hit earth was the 1859 Carrington event which was blamed for telegraph systems failing in North America and Europe.
The Met Office said that if a similar strike happened now it could cause national grid failure leading to power loss across significant areas for up to 12 hours, and up to several weeks if many transformers were damaged.
It could also cause the permanent loss of 30 per cent of satellites, leading to the disruption of communications, earth observation facilities and position navigation and timing services including GPS.
The Met Office added: ‘This would have a severe impact upon global and UK monetary systems which are primarily composed of electronic accounts and assets and rely on accurate timings from GPS to synchronise trades.’
A London 2012 spokeswoman added: ‘We are working with our partners and stakeholders to ensure that contingency plans are in place for all eventualities.’