Lockdown London

2012-05-21 00:00

AS many as 48 000 security forces, 13 500 troops. Surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment buildings. A sonic weapon that disperses crowds by creating “head-splitting pain”. Unmanned drones peering down from the skies. A safe zone, cordoned off by an 18-kilometre electrified fence, ringed with trained agents and 55 teams of attack dogs.

 

One would be forgiven for thinking that these were the counter-insurgency tactics used by United States army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, or perhaps the military methods taught to Third World despots at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. But instead of being used in a war zone or the theatre of occupation, they in fact make up the very visible security apparatus in London for the 2012 Summer Oly­mpics.

London, which has the most street cameras per capita of any city on Earth, has for the past seven years since the terror attacks of July 7, 2005, been a city whose political leaders spare no expense to monitor its own citizens. But the Olympic operation goes above and beyond anything we’ve seen yet when a Western democracy hosts the games. Not even China in 2008 used drone planes or ringed the proceedings with a massive, high-voltage fence. But here is London, preparing a counter-insurgency, and parking an aircraft carrier right in the Thames. Here is London adding “scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease-tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints”.

Stephen Graham at the Guardian refers to the entire state of affairs as “Lockdown London” as well as “the UK’s biggest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war”. He is not exaggerating in the slightest. The number of troops will exceed the forces the UK has had in Afghanistan.

It’s not just the costs or the incredible invasion into people’s privacy. It’s the powers being given to police under the 2006 London Olympic Games Act which empowers not only the army and police, but also private security forces to deal with “security issues” using physical force. These security issues have been broadly defined to include everything from terrorism to peaceful protesters, to labour unions, to people selling bootleg Olympic products on the streets, to taking down any corporate presence that doesn’t have the Olympic seal of approval. To help them with the last part, there will be “brand protection teams” set loose around the city. These teams will also operate inside Olympic venues to make sure no one “wears clothes or accessories with commercial messages other than [those of] the manufacturers who are official sponsors”.

The security operation also means the kind of street harassment of working class youth that will sound familiar in the U.S. As the Guardian reported: “Officers have powers to move on anyone considered to be engaged in antisocial behaviour, whether they are hanging around the train station, begging, soliciting, loitering in hoodies or deemed in any way to be causing a nuisance.”

Not to shock anyone, but there are no signs that any of the security apparatus will be dismantled once the Olympics are over. Local police forces have just been given an inordinate number of new toys and the boxes have been opened, the receipts tossed away.

London will be left with a hi-tech police force, terrible debt, higher taxes, with a camera around every corner. The only people who will leave this party enriched will be the private security industry who will tout “the peace” as their personal accomplishment, encouraging more of the global one percent to get more guards, more walls, and more separation from the great unwashed.

There is no reason that the Olympics have to be this way. There is no reason that an international celebration of sports — particularly sports more diverse than our typical high-carb diet of football, baseball, basketball, and more football — can’t take place without drones and aircraft carriers. There is no reason athletes from across the globe can’t join together and showcase their physical potential.

But the Olympics aren’t about sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy. The Olympics are not about athletes. And they’re definitely not about bringing together “the community of nations”. They are a neoliberal Trojan Horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties.

In many ways, this is what the games have always been. From Adolf Hitler’s Berlin Olympics in 1936, to the slaughter of students in 1968 in Mexico City, to the Gang Sweeps in Los Angeles in 1984, to Beijing’s mass displacement of citizens in 2008, the “crackdown” has always been a part of the Olympic Games. But in the post 9/11 world, the stakes are even higher to expose this for what it is. The Olympics have become the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine down, and the medicine is that our elected leaders have seen the enemy, and it is all of us.

— Agence Global

 

 

Dave Zirin is the author of Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner).

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.