WHILE foreign dignitaries are treated to a glitzy Buckingham Palace reception, complimentary luxury cars and their own private Olympic transport lane – this was the scene that greeted our Hampshire troops guarding London 2012.
Drafted in at the last minute amid a security fiasco, hundreds of members of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1PWRR) have been billeted in underground car parks, shopping centres and deserted warehouses.
Now a Hampshire MP is demanding an investigation into their treatment – which comes just months after the regiment – nicknamed the Tigers – returned from Afghanistan.
There they had spent a gruelling six months on the frontline and have now had their leave cancelled to step in at the Games.
These pictures, sent to the Daily Echo by a parent of one of the soldiers, show troops lined up on cramped military camp beds on the bottom floor of a multi-storey car park, where the rest of the floors are still being used. The Daily Echo understands that in some places that troops are staying, the soldiers have no access to electricity and are on Army rations.
Businesses and shops have stepped in to top up the food supply – offering half-price pizzas and fast food.
But Fiona Mason, 51, from Fair Oak , whose son Paul, 21, is serving with the Tigers, says the troops should be treated with more respect.
She added: “It’s absolutely disgusting. They were treated better in the desert.”
Last week the Daily Echo revealed how hundreds of Princess of Wales troops had been drafted in to guard some Olympic sites, including the beach volleyball at Horseguards Parade.
Some troops have been given passes to events in an attempt by organisers to fill empty seats.
But dad Simon Lynch- Garbett, 56, from Tenerife whose son James, 28, is staying in the Tower Bridge area with the regiment. says handing out a few free tickets does not make up for the way they have been treated.
He said: “They don’t even have access to electricity.
“They’ve spent months out there fighting for our country and this is the way they’re being treated. I understand they have got them some tickets – but that’s only because the seats are empty.”
Margaret Powell, 67, from Hill Head, who knows several of her son’s friends are staying in London with the Tigers during the Olympics , added: “They come back from Afghanistan and then they’re treated like second class citizens – prisoners are treated better.”
The conditions the soldiers are enduring are in stark contrast to the luxury that celebs and dignitaries will enjoy during the next two weeks.
Dozens of “superyachts” have lined up in London’s docks – turning it into a “mini Monaco” for the Games.
A-list celebrities and the mega-rich are staying on the luxurious cruisers to guarantee them front row seats for the Olympics.
Dignitaries from around the world were also treated to a glamorous reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen.
Reports also suggest they have been provided with chauffeur- driven BMWs to travel around in, using the speciallydesignated Olympic lanes that are out-of-bounds for normal drivers.
So far, 17,500 troops have been drafted in to provide security at the Games, after private security firm G4S admitted it did not have the manpower to fulfil its Olympic contract.
He said: “We know that the various select committees in the House of Commons are going to look at the problems with security contracts – as part of that wider investigation, I hope they also look into how the emergency deployment of troops was handled.”
“When the troops were put on standby, we were told that this was part of a contingency plan being put in place – if it was a contingency plan you have got to ask what plans did they make to accommodate the soldiers?
“Surely somebody should have been looking at it in advance to see what arrangements would be made for accommodation.”
The Army said it was doing all it could to make the experience more comfortable for troops – including sending round an ice cream van to the places where soldiers are staying.
A spokesman said: “Since the uplift in the military contribution we have been working hard to ensure that our armed forces, who are of course used to living in austere conditions on operations, are accommodated appropriately and as comfortable as possible, with access to sufficient rest and recreational facilities