Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

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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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.

Laurie Penny explains why with her usual vigour:

In Britain, private security agents might be hired to do the same jobs as police officers and prison guards, but they’re not accountable to the public in the same way – at least, not yet. The Independent Police Complaints Commission still has no power to investigate private security staff, and the Government is prevaricating over the watchdog’s request to extend its remit – which was supported by G4S – while extending the outsourcing of policing to for-profitcompanies. G4S was recently awarded a £200m contract to take over half of the civilian duties of Lincolnshire police force. Policing employees helping protect the public in Grimsby and Scunthorpe will now wear G4S’s company logo – that discreet sharp slash of red and black.

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.” If that made any sense at all, I doubt it would be more reassuring.

It’s brilliant to look back on this, given the fiasco currently unravelling regarding G4S’s incompetent mishandling of the role they were paid hundreds of millions to undertake at the Olympics. It now turns out there’s no penalty clause in their contract:

Private security company G4S will not be financially penalised for failing to recruit sufficient security guards for the Olympic Games, it emerged last night.

The firm has been accused of letting the country down just two weeks before the Games, with soldiers forced to cancel family holidays to ensure venues are protected. But a senior Government source told The Independent that the contract with G4S did not include a penalty clause.

The revelation appears to contradict a statement by the Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons. She told MPs that while the contract was between G4S and the Games organisers Locog, she understood that there were “penalties within that contract”.

A source said that in fact it was a pro-rata agreement where G4S were paid for each extra security guard they supplied – and not penalised if they did not make the overall target. “The person who negotiated the contract should be shot,” the source said.

 

You know things are bad when the Spectator are on LOCOG’s case:

The real risk, in my view is not so much from the letter of the law. It is from the chilling effect on free speech, created by the rules and their gung-ho implementation. Consider the following:

  • Sally Gunnell photoshoot promoting easyJet’s new London Southend service in July 2011. Locog executive stopped photoshoot of her raising a Union flag above her shoulders. Union flag was removed & she had to change from a white tracksuit to an orange T-shirt.
  • Butcher in Weymouth. Was told to remove his display of sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings.
  • Olympicnic. A small village in Surrey has been stopped from running an “Olympicnic” on its village green.
  • ‘Flaming torch breakfast baguette’ offered at a café in Plymouth to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic torch was outlawed by Locog.
  • ‘Cafe Lympic’ & ‘Lympic Food Store & Off License’. Both had to drop the ‘O’ at the start of their names. But Alex Kelham, a brand protection lawyer at Locog, says: ‘The legislation actually catches anything similar to the word ‘Olympic’ as well. It’s not a fool-proof get-around.’
  • Florist in Stoke-on-Trent. Was ordered to take down a tissue paper Olympic rings display from the shop window.
  • Oxford Olympic Torch stalls. Traders will have to cover up their logos, and can only sell soft drinks from the Coca-Cola product range (inc. bottled water)
  • Webbers Estate Agents in North Devon. Threatened with legal action for displaying makeshift Olympic rings in its windows.

The word soon gets around: if you upset the Olympic censors, they will come for you. And what shopkeeper wants to get landed with a massive lawsuit? You’d sooner not take the risk. If a newsagent has been told (as we were, originally) that it’s illegal to be rude about the Olympics then to stock this week’s Spectator – which is defiantly rude about the Olympics – would be a risk you’d understandably not take.

This can’t possibly be in the spirit of what the Olympics are supposed to be about. Protected by missiles for fuck’s sake? Insane. Missiles forcibly installed on people’s roofs? What sort of country is this anyway? I can’t imagine what sense it makes for chips which aren’t McDonalds’ to be outlawed in the Stratford Park during this period! But G4S not being able to deliver the security personnel it promised, forcing army personnel to police the event, is serious financially (how many hundred million were G4S paid?) and sets an ominous precedent. And PLEASE someone tell me what sense there is in banning cyclists from ‘Games Lanes’ (very Soviet) in the run-up to and during a SPORTS EVENT?! There’s no discussion going on about sport at all, as far as I know! This is crazy!