|Written by Margaret McAdam and Martin Ralph|
|Monday, 13 August 2012 20:23|
Athletes Go Gold; Olympic Committee Go for Commercialisation, Militarisation and Social Control.
Millions have experienced the joy and exhilaration generated by the 2012 Olympic Games as athletes from across the world strove to win medals. The games, which took place in some of the poorest boroughs in the country, saw intensive sponsorship control by a few of the most hated multi-nationals inthe world, extensive militarisation in London and an attack on civil rights.
Parts of London resembled a high intensity theatre of war: an aircraft carrier in the River Thames, pilot-less drones in the sky, surface to air missiles on residential apartments, 18,000 military personnel, 300 MI5 agents, 13 miles of electrified fence, 55 teams of attack dogs.
Mass surveillance with dispersal powers used in the Olympic Dispersal Zone resulted in a high on the opening day of an Olympics. And a ‘group’ of two or more children or adults could be ordered to leave the zone if a police constable ‘reasonably’ believed that their presence could be ‘intimidatory’.
The London Olympic Games Act 2006 gave extraordinary powers to the army, police, 48,000 private security forces and the multi-national sponsors and East London became a militarised zone. Why? To protect the multi-national sponsors and, more importantly, to expand militarisation of the forces of social control. Fear of the development of a mass movement, which can arise as the austerity measures deepen, is forcing this preparation and the 2012 Olympics presented an opportunity to test and implement this.
Residents protested against the placing of surface to air missiles in their areas. But all they received was a leaflet telling them that for the duration of the games a team of soldiers and police would be stationed at their blocks of flats, which is home to 700, and saying that the missiles would only be used as a last resort.
This massive show of Britain’s military might is not new. Troops have been seen on the streets of Britain many times since the second world war in order to break strikes. For example during the time of the first Labour government 1945 to 1950, the firefighters strike of 1977 and the miners’ strike in 1984/85.
Police powers and excessive force have already led to many injustices such as the killing of Ian Tomlinson, Mark Duggan, Jean Charles de Menezes and many others, but the police are never found guilty. Such injustices can only increase as methods of control become even more excessive. Today, security issues surrounding the London Olympics have been used to normalise a process of heavy militarisation and is a preparation to control any future resistance.
Much of the commentary on the games has highlighted the years of a healthy diet and fitness regimes that athletes undergo in the preparation for the competition. In stark contrast exclusive sponsorship deals were awarded to Coca-Cola and McDonald’s who sell high calorie foodstuffs, which has been criticised by doctors and health campaigners. McDonald’s had four restaurants inside the Olympic Park at Stratford including their biggest in the world.
Another Olympic sponsor, Atos Healthcare, is responsible for taking thousands of sick and disabled off benefits saying they are fit to work. Disabled People Against Cuts and UK Uncut are protesting against them during the Paralympic Games.
Dow Chemicals sponsorship is opposed by “Athletes Against Dow Chemical”, by the survivors and their communities of the 1984 Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) gas tragedy in Bhopal, India. More than 25,000 have died and over 500,000 have been effected since the tragedy.
The Vietnam Women’s Union, which has an estimated membership of 13 million, and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour have protested (with 43 other organisations in solidarity with Vietnam) against the Dow Chemical sponsorship because it was one of the main companies manufacturing Agent Orange and Napalm during the Vietnam war. One estimate puts the number of victims at 4.8 million victims of Agent Orange, many of them children. Sebastian Coe who chairs the Olympic Organising Committee opposed the demand saying incorrectly that the US was addressing the problems. The Olympic sponsors literally include a producer of weapons of mass destruction.
Helping to create obesity, devastating the lives of the disabled and devastating the environment and the lives of millions. Is this in the spirit of the Olympics? Does this echo the desired legacy of these Olympics, healthy futures and healthy populations? MacDonalds, Atos, Dow Chemicals, BP and Coca Cola – these sponsors are responsible for the above crimes but it appears the ethics of the International Olympic Committee operate with their hands tied firmly to the multi-national exploiters and the war mongers of this world.
The price of winning a medal at the Olympics is based on tainted money.
Poverty and cuts
There are many social problems in the six Olympic boroughs, “Compared to the rest of London, twice as many people in the six boroughs live in the most deprived areas of England. Up to half of all children here live in poverty. The proportion of households who live in temporary accommodation is higher than the London average in four out of the six boroughs, and the proportion of people who are long term unemployed is higher than the London average in five out of the six Olympic boroughs.” (CHILD’S PLAY? The antenatal to adolescent health legacy, London Health Observatory, July 2012).
It further states that: “The health of people living in Olympic boroughs is also poor” and it will get worse. It has been estimated that £86 million per annum will be lost from the economy of the six boroughs due to high levels of unemployment in the six boroughs (http://www.planningresource.co.uk).
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has said that sport must take “a major hit” from the austerity policy, which means that: a new generation of school sport facilities, £1 billion from the local authority spend on sport and recreation and free swimming for under-16s will be cut. In contrast £13 billion of public money was spent on staging the games. We need sports facilities for the many not just for the few.
Britain welcomed the world but in Newham all the foreign newspapers available in it’s libraries were cancelled, to save just £7,000 per annum. Until July 2011, Newham funded eight organisations to provide independent advice to people from all sections of the local community, on issues such as housing, benefits, and debt. These have been cut and Newham faces a further £75million in cuts over the next four years.
The 2012 games are the most commercialised ever providing opportunities for the amassing of millions and even billions by the rich while Britain is going through its longest and deepest recession with the vast majority of cuts still to come. The Labour party also joined the celebration of profit and military by appointing war monger Tony Blair as an adviser on Olympic legacy.
The Games are meant to bring the nations of the world together in unity and sport but the economic, political and military agenda of the government utilises every opportunity for its own unscrupulous, greedy and murderous aims.
Unemployment, poor health, problems of obesity, cuts in benefit, higher charges for and cuts in sport facilities, advice centre cut, and social services cut, this is happening due to austerity and partly due to the cost of the Olympics.
The government, the army and the police are preparing for what is coming, those in the trade unions and the working class communities also have to prepare. In answer to their extremes we need to build the biggest working class demonstration on October 20. We need a principled struggle based on working class independence and internationalism.
Only a mass movement and the defeat of the government’s austerity programme can prevent the ending of public services including public sport facilities and can stop rising unemployment on the basis of no cuts, public ownership and public accountability.