Posts Tagged ‘London’

Seumas Milne does the deconstruction work so you don’t have to:

It’s billed as the greatest show on earth. But the closer you get to the London stadium that will be the centre of the Olympic Games in just over a fortnight’s time [now under 2 days], the more it’s starting to look like a militarised occupation zone. East London has become lockdown London. The Olympics are the focus of Britain’s largest security mobilisation since the second world war.

Soldiers are already on the streets. Around 13,500 are being deployed, more than currently in Afghanistan, along with tens of thousands of police and private security guards. Drones will patrol the skies over the Olympic park, barricaded behind an 11-mile electrified fence and guarded with sonic weapons and 55 teams of attack dogs.

Mustn’t forget the law changes which will allow police to move gatherings of two or more on for any reason they can think of. Is the Olympics really worth sacrificing freedom of assembly? As Milne points out later in the article, just what is that promoting? But of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as he goes on to explain:

The greatest local outrage has, not surprisingly, been triggered by the decision to site surface-to-air missile batteries, with orders to shoot down any unauthorised aircraft, in six residential areas around the park – including in the former factory buildings where the socialist feminist Annie Besant led the celebrated “matchgirls’ strike” in 1888. On Tuesday, residents of another tower block failed at the high court to stop the army putting missiles on their roof on the grounds that they hadn’t been consulted and could be vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Of course, if the state hosting the Olympics is in the habit of invading and occupying other people’s countries, the likelihood of terrorist attacks will increase. And ever since the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich 40 years ago, Olympic security has been tight. But the scale and visibility of the London operations, including powers to crack down on protest and even remove critical posters from private homes, go far beyond the demands of any potential threat.

People are already getting threatened by the police, merely for having expressed anti-Olympics dissent online. It’s quite unthinkable. What is this supposed to be, China? Have we learned nothing from the police excess around the Royal Wedding, where protesters were essentially arrested (without having done a single thing), for not joining in unquestioningly with the party?

There are other motivations, naturally. In the words of one Whitehall official, the Olympics are a “tremendous opportunity to showcase what the private sector can do in the security space“. But it’s all a long way from the Olympic ideals of promoting peace, internationalism and participation through sport.

Not just security. As he goes on to discuss, it’s a corporate free-for-all. Want to get your money from a non-VISA cashpoint while you’re cheering on Tom Daley et al? Good luck with that. Want to eat healthily, which would sort of be in line with a major sporting event? Enjoy your Big Mac and supersized fries in the largest McDonalds in the world! From The Braiser:

“London won the right to host the 2012 Games with the promise to deliver a legacy of more active, healthier children across the world,” said Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who proposed the motion. “Yet the same International Olympic Committee that awarded the games to London persists in maintaining sponsorship deals with the purveyors of high calorie junk that contributes to the threat of an obesity epidemic.”

I wish the athletes (at least the non-drug taking ones) well, but the event which they’re partaking in is making a mockery of itself. Respect, excellence and friendship? By threatening dissenters, militarising the city and encouraging obesity (yes Coca Cola I’m also looking at you)? What a joke.

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Simon Jenkins offers an angry assessment of the Olympics so far:

Early in the London bid process I attended a conference at which the Blairite talk was of holding a “new games”, even a “people’s Olympics“. They would put an end to the International Olympic Committee‘s self-importance, elitism and expense, showing how any world city could afford to host the Olympics by using existing facilities. There should be no question of the Olympics imposing a “white elephant cost”, as on Montreal, Athens and Beijing. Sport would be made to fit the city, not the other way round.

The political ambition of Tony Blair and his team to “win” the games from France blew that to the winds. The IOC’s demands for special stadiums, venues near five-star hotels and Guantánamo-style “fortified villages” were conceded. Huge sums were spent on consultants and buildings. The budget soared. London was sacrificed to extravagance and political kudos, and told it was lucky.

The Games were thus vulnerable to Britain’s prevailing securocrat paranoia, as well as to the logistical chaos that comes with disrupting a large and busy city for a whole summer. There are guards who speak no English and drivers who have never heard of Tower Bridge. Only now are Londoners waking up to the statutory scope that parliament conceded to the IOC back in 2006. It could command London’s police, traffic, advertising and business activity. It could enjoy unlimited access to the British exchequer. A £3bn budget swiftly ballooned to £9bn.

I’ve heard this said elsewhere: the ‘Games’ are epitomising what we now socially crave. We’re so disillusioned and politically apathetic, that we demand spectacle that we can all join in (or delude ourselves into thinking we can). ‘Live’ news, Royal Weddings, Stock, Aiken & Waterman ‘reunions’, you name it, we’ll all come together unquestioningly (and pretty hysterically) for these, in the absence of a political arena we can have any influence over. Blown civil liberties? Who gives a shit when you can afford your holiday to the Costa del Sol? Freedom of assembly? Who needs that, fellow citizen? Don’t you know how much better life would be if you were a GAMES MAKER?

Of course the remaining point is equally true – the security state looked upon the Games with glee as an unparalleled series of opportunities. Just look at the little people whingeing about re-routed traffic, whilst ambulances are banned from GAMES LANES! Just look at how the compliant judiciary isn’t remotely bothered about the military installing missiles on people’s roofs! Londoners aren’t allowed to use the words London, Olympic, Games, 2012 or even to mock LOCOG whilst linking to their website, and woe betide any florist’s, butcher’s or newspapers offering Olympic Specials! They’ll be visited by BRAND POLICE! It sounds comedic but this is all happening right now, amidst the cheering and gasps at the passing of the Olympic Torch. The really dangerous authoritarian elements who had their day in New Labour are laughing up their sleeves.

London won’t gain a thing from the Olympics, other than this transitory ‘feel-good’ blip which we’ve forgotten all about since the Royal Wedding (fancy that). The Tories will continue attacking poor people, the bankers will still refuse to lend to small businesses whilst paying themselves millions in bonuses, and nasty precedents will have been set which won’t have escaped the attention of the securitati in Whitehall, GCHQ (hello) and Downing Street. I’ve been told off for dismissing the positive effect the Games will have on sport, but it remains an utter mystery to me why so many billions need to be spent doing that, and why pushing sport shouldn’t be part of daily life for kids and adults alike anyway. The London 2012 Olympics are epitomising everything that’s wrong in 21st century British life.

From the London Vandal:

we certainly weren’t expecting the late night phone calls that we received from some past artists last night, who got in touch to tell us that they had been raided by the police yesterday (17th July). While graffiti writer’s homes being raided by the police is not a rare phenomenon, this series of raids came as quite a shock to many of the artists as most had given up painting illegal graffiti some 15 years ago.

Some of the people who were arrested had stopped painting graffiti without prior permission over a decade ago, and now paint commissioned artwork for corporate clients, while others haven’t touched a spray can at all in many years. For both types of ex-graffiti enthusiast, a knock on the door from the British Transport Police was the last thing they were expecting.

As they were escorted by officers back to the BTP headquaters in Victoria, the retired graffiti artists overheard radio chatter which made it clear to them that raids were being carried out on addresses across the length and breadth of London. Once they arrived at the station, the ex-graffiti writers spotted thirty or more familiar faces from the past – and realised that they weren’t the only ex-graff scene dweller to be arrested. Retired graffiti artists had been pulled in a big way.

It was around then that the graffiti artists realised what point the police were trying to make with them. Having been arrested, they were questioned about what they considered petty matters – accusations of criminal damage in the ’90s, questions about websites and magazines that they were involved in. After being briefly questioned about these seemingly irrelevant matters, they were told that they were to be bailed until November on the condition that they did not use any form of railway in London (overground, tube or tram), carry spray paint (or other graffiti tools, presumably) at any time, or travel within a mile of any Olympic area. That includes the Olympic Park, the ExCel center and other Earls Court locations, Greenwich park, Hampton Court Palace, Hyde Park, Lord’s Cricket Ground, North Greenwich Arena, The Mall, The Royal Artillery Barracks, Wembley Arena, Wembley Stadium, Wimbledon and a host of out-of-London locations.

Peter Tatchell sure thinks so:

Corporate giants, Gaydar and Smirnoff, last week reportedly offered well in excess of £60,000 to cover Pride’s funding shortfall but the Mayor’s office spurned this offer claiming it was “too late”. This “too late” claim is disputed, with some people suggesting that there was still sufficient time last week to produce a viable rescue package, if the Mayor’s team had the will to do so.

Last year, the costs involved in the post-parade rally in Trafalgar Square were reportedly in the region of £50,000. This year they are allegedly £100,000. If true, it seems hard to justify a 100% increase which has, in part, created the funding shortfall.

It is claimed that the GLA is forcing Pride to use certain contractors, who are not necessarily the cheapest. This may be artificially exacerbating Pride’s money problems.

The financial difficulties faced by Pride are mostly a cash-flow problem. The GLA has forced Pride to pay for everything upfront as a condition for the events to go head. Pride says the sponsorship money it expects to receive by the end of the festivities would have bridged most of the funding gap.

The GLA has reportedly not paid all the money it promised to Pride; thereby compounding the cash-flow difficulties.

The Mayor’s office says there are “problems” and “safety issues” related to the Pride parade which require the start time to be bought forward to 11am and which require huge insurance premiums to be paid. However, they refuse to say what these problems and safety issues are. This is tantamount to demonising Pride as a troublesome event. In contrast, the police say it is one of the most trouble-free events held in London. Previously the police have adopted a very low presence, confident that Pride has no problem or safety issues.

Mayor Johnson’s sudden change in the parade start-time from 1pm to 11am is very unfair to people who have pre-booked trains and coaches for a1pm start. The march will have left before many people have arrived. This is a recipe for chaos and disruption. Instead of an orderly march, tens of thousands of disorganised people will swarm through the streets towards Trafalgar Square and Soho, blocking traffic and causing grid-lock.

Peter later mentions Boris’ attempts to ban him from speaking at the Trafalgar Square event on Saturday. Check out this video of Jenny Jones questioning the blond buffoon about just that and make your own mind up:

What a mess.