Mark Saunders talks at reART in Zurich – 26th Oct

Spectacle’s Mark Saunders will be discussing East London and the commodification of local culture at reART in Zurich, Switzerland on Friday 26th Oct.

reART:theURBAN is an international conference that will revolve around the question of what art can do for the development of the urban society and the city itself. The conference takes place from the 25th-27th October this year, with talks from a number of international speakers, including Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek and Charles Landry, an urban thinker from the UK.

To find out more about the conference, go to the reART website and for more about Mark’s talk, click here

Click here to buy tickets

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OLYMPIC SPONSOR PROTEST CAMPAIGN EVENT-Tonight

ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERN GROUPS UNITE

Monday 16th April

Venue: Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA

Time: Launch event 7pm-9pm

On Monday 16th of April, a coalition of environmental and human rights groups are unveiling a new online campaign, Greenwash Gold 2012, focusing on the ‘worst’ London Olympic sponsors. this is sure to ramp up the pressure on LOCOG after the fiasco surrounding Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Games as further groups look set to unite in opposition to various London Games sponsors.

Three controversial Olympic sponsors, Dow Chemicals, BP and Rio Tinto are the targets of the new online campaign. Each has been made the subject of a short animated film (by various award-winning animators) and viewers will be encouraged to visit the ‘GreenwashGold’ website where they will be able to vote for the worst corporate sponsor.

During the Games, in July, the organisers will award medals to these companies based on the results of the public voting.
Members of communities impacted by the Olympic sponsors, from all over the world, have come together for the launch event on the 16th to criticise the companies, including:

A survivor of the Bhopal disaster who witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the gas leak and campaigns tirelessly to highlight Dow Chemical’s liability towards the ongoing chemical contamination.
A representative from the Gulf Coast where communities are still dealing with the environmental devastation of BP’s catastrophic oil spill.
An organiser with indigenous communities in Canada fighting BP’s controversial tar sands operations.
A mother from Utah fighting against the life-threatening air pollution levels caused by one of the mines from which Rio Tinto is providing the metal for the Olympic metals.
A community representative from Mongolia where another Rio Tinto mine proving medals metal is accused of exploiting scarce water resources in a desert region.
The launch on the 16th will be chaired by Meredith Alexander, the ex Olympics ‘ethics tsar’ who resigned her role on, the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsorship.

Colin Toogood, Bhopal Medical Appeal Media Spokesman said: “The Dow Chemical Company are the owners of the Union Carbide Corporation wanted, in India, on the criminal charge of culpable homicide for their role in their Bhopal Disaster. The Bhopal disaster site has never been cleaned up and highly toxic chemicals are now found in the drinking water of over 30,000 poor people. If we can clean up the London Olympic site in readiness for the games, why can’t Dow take responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal.”

Richard Solly, coordinator of the London Mining Network said: “Some of the most disreputable companies in the world are sponsoring the Olympics. Rio Tinto, Dow and BP all have appalling environmental and human rights records, and they are being allowed to greenwash their tarnished reputations by association with the 2012 games. Greenwash Gold 2012 is providing people with an opportunity to name and shame the worst corporate sponsor of London Olympics.”

Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network, said: “BP has bought itself the prestigious title of London 2012 ‘Sustainability Partner’. But this is dangerous greenwash. BP is one of the least sustainable companies on earth, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the extraction of highly-polluting tar sands. Its entire business is geared towards keeping the world addicted to fossil fuels and driving us towards uncontrollable climate change. And the Olympics are helping BP get away with it!”

Cherise Udell, the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said: “I was delighted to learn that the 2012 Olympic committee was aiming for the greenest Olympics ever. Then I heard that Rio Tinto metal from our controversial Utah mine would be used to make the medals. In Utah, Rio Tinto are the number one emitter of toxins known to cause harm to human health. Every year, between 1000 and 2000 Utahns die prematurely due to chronic air pollution and Rio Tinto’s Bingham mine is responsible for about 30% of this.”

Launch Event Facebook page:

GreenwashGold website goes live with animations from 16th April.

For more information/comment, contact

Colin Toogood, Bhopal Medical Appeal,

ColinToogood@bhopal.org, 07798 845074

Farah Edwards-Khan was born and raised in Bhopal and was ten years old at the time of the disaster. Farah was lucky enough to be in a part of the city that was not too badly hit by the gas, during the night of the main disaster, but witnessed the unfolding tragedy first-hand the following morning as bodies lined the streets of Bhopal

Colin Toogood has worked for the BMA for three and a half years after a change of life decision for this erstwhile DJ. Colin decided he needed something more worthwhile to do with his time and feels very lucky to have found such a worthwhile cause to be working for.

Cherise Udell, the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, is a mother of two, and a resident of Salt Lake City. Cherise has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley and is nearly finished with her M.S. in Environmental Health and Social Ecology at Yale University.

Zanaa Jurmed is the Director of the Center for Citizens’ Alliance and Vice Chair of the Tripartite National Committee on Resolving disputes mining and public property issues. She is also the Chair of the Board of the Oyu Tolgoi Watch, a non governmental organization in Mongolia. She is the founding member of the number of Women’s and Human Rights NGOs since 1992, member of the Human Rights group to the Mongolia President and non-staff member of the Mongolian National Human Right Commission.

Derrick Evans is a sixth-generation native of Turkey Creek, a Mississippi Gulf Coast community settled by freed slaves in 1866. Derrick founded Turkey Creek Community Initiatives to promote sustainable local development that is both environmentally and culturally sensitive. Since Hurricane Katrina and the devastating BP Deepwater Horizon spill he has been a tireless organizer and advocate for the needs and rights of coastal communities, and is an advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation also known as Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba, Canada, is an activist for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. Clayton is the tar sands campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and works with grassroots indigenous communities to defend against the sprawling infrastructure that includes pipelines, refineries and extraction associated with the tar sands, the largest and most destructive industrial development in the history of mankind.

 

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Local businesses near Olympic Park sue LOCOG

Firms locating around the Olympics Park are planning legal actions against LOCOG.

One of the local businesses displaced by the Olympics

A group of 40 businesses located near the Olympic Park are filing lawsuits against the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), on the grounds that the companies do not receive sufficient compensation when their businesses are devastated by the road closures or other relevant measures.

These companies fall outside the LOCOG’s compulsory purchase zone, ranging from transport business, cafes, garages to retailers, have committed a small amount of money to take legal action against LOCOG over the alleged lack of compensation plan and a perceived failure to provide relocation packages for the worst affected. Lawyers from John Halford and Paul Ridge will advise the group for a moot action against LOCOG.

LOCOG claimed Olympics has the capacity to transform one of the most underdeveloped areas of the country for generations to come. But businesses warned that having fewer customers is the only Olympic legacy they have.

Michael Spinks, manager of Essex Flour & Grain, complained the road closures would disrupt the revenue. He told the BBC: “Locog behaves like the playground bully. They don’t seem to care about the welfare of their neighbours. We are expected to fall in line and if we survive we survive, and if we don’t it is all for the greater good of the Olympics.”

Graham Phelps, manager of Phelps Transport said: “In rush hour we won’t be able to work at all. Where our drivers might usually leave at midday to get to a job in Birmingham they’re going to have to leave at 5am during the Olympics just to get there on time. We could lose between 50 and 60 per cent of our turnover.”

Traffic disruption dissuades customers purchasing from stores, as the manager of Pennywise Furniture wholesalers Kevin Farley voiced his concerns: “If there’s going to be police checkpoints, that will create a massive bottle-neck. I can see half of our customers staying away.”

The government’s plan to ‘regenerate’ the area will result in relocation, such moves may also pull away some loyal customers. From a community blog “Newham 2012“, a local pub owner faces an uncertain future due to radical changes within the community, he told the blogger that it was packed two years ago, but now there were only 3 other people in the pub.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said a study of nearly 1,700 small firms indicated that only 7% of them believe the 2012 Olympics will be of benefit to them. And 25% said they thought the events would have a negative impact.

In fact, LOCOG did expect some economic damages during the Olympics, the committee issued “Preparing your business for the Games” report, alerting entrepreneurs and businessmen prepare in advance to line up strategies minimizing potential loss. In the report, it has listed potential impacts on business and some coping strategies are also included. The impacts include:

  • takes longer journey for staff
  • internet services may be slower
  • mobile networks may be slowed down
  • travel disruption
  • road disruption due to Olympic Route Network (ORN)
  • disruptions to road network will affect deliveries across London

In this case, the bill for hosting London Olympics keeps rising, the economic impact is now going beyond what the Prime Minister David Cameron defended earlier for £9.3 billion. At this point, we can say the perceived “Olympics Effect” has almost vanished (the term refers to the fact that the West End predicts more than £17million being spent in major shopping districts or other economic benefits driven by tourism), some companies forecast the Olympics will flush in large amounts of income, pushing cafes and shops to rebrand themselves as “Olympic” in East London.

 

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Olympic Borough Racist Policing and Selective Security

 

© Copyright Danny Robinson Forest Gate Police Station (Danny Robinson) / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Forest Gate Police Station located in the Olympic borough of Newham is at the centre of alleged racist assault. The London Olympics website states that the Olympics are a “celebration of different cultures” and that “diversity was a key reason why London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world” was chosen to host the events. However, these testimonies of ‘celebrating diversity’ have been subsequently undermined from the allegations of racism from members of the Metropolitan police, which could be seen as a form of institutional racism.

These allegations of racism echo previous instances of institutional racism which have have been resistant to change. In the 1970s there was a report from a school boy in the borough of Newham who was attacked shows that the resilience of institutional racism in the face of police reform.  When the boy was taken by his employer to Forest Gate Police Station to report the incident the police officer, a character that resembled a Dixon of Dock Green style Desk Sergeant on hearing the story bent down under the counter, pulled out a double barrel shot gun and asked: ” Was he Black? We’ll get him wont we lads?” to the cheers of the other police officers in the station. When the Desk Sergeant heard that the assailant was white, and not black and leant his address he sighed, “Oh that lot. That family are well known”. No further action was taken.

The professionalism of the Metropolitan police force has once again come under scrutiny after new reports of racism have emerged.  Hours after PC Alex MacFarlane was recorded on a mobile phone apparently using racist and abusive language, a colleague PC Joe Harrington was allegedly recorded in the custody suite assaulting a teenage boy.

In the first incident of the alleged racial abusive language recorded by Mauro Demetrio, 21, on his mobile phone PC MacFarclane is heard saying that “You’ll always have black skin colour” has been recently suspended. While  PC Harrington was not heard making racist comments on the recording he was one of the three officers investigated for the alleged assault of Mauro Demetrio.

Soon after Demetrio was held custody at Forest Gate police station where he witnessed PC Harrington allegedly assault a 15 year old boy who was handcuffed. Demetrio stated that he saw PC Harrington kick the teenager in the back of the leg and once he was on the floor, kneed him in the back.

After Demterio’s report has been made public, a separate Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation was launched into the case of the 15 year old and subsequent CCTV footage of the incident has been found.

The close proximity of these events which occurred during the London riots last August has caused concerns over the way police officers operate.  More controversy has arisen due to the initial advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) police complaints department that neither officer should be charged . This has subsequently caused pressing reviews by the CPS.

In recent years security has become a central issue in the planning of the Olympics, as the games will see some 12,000 police officers patrolling the streets of London at any one time as well as 5,000 military troops supporting them. However, are the recent allegations of racism undermine the security projects planned for the Olympics?  A spokesperson for the Newham Monitoring Project has stated that even “after years of re-branding its poor reputation of racial inequality, the culture of racism within the Metropolitan police is still deeply embedded.” “With 12,000 police officers based in Newham during the Olympics the borough’s black communities face the prospect of a regime of repressive policing” that mirrors an apartheid approach to policing. Black Olympic athletes may want to think twice about sightseeing in Newham.

 

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Olympics, Advertising and the Riot Panel’s call to curb Aggressive Marketing

The imminent Olympics will take place in a city still recovering from the riots. Seven months ago we were shocked by the images that dominated our television screens. The riots, in which around 15,000 people took part, were characterized by the looting of designer stores, such as Footlocker, JD Sports, Orange, O2 and Adidas. Roughly 50 per cent of the recorded offences from the riots were acquisitive in nature. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, established by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition, this week published a report documenting the panel’s findings and recommendations to help prevent future riots. Rampant materialism is considered an underlying cause of last year’s lawlessness. In addition to the lack of economic opportunities, a breakdown of community ties and the loss of trust in the police and public sector, the panel considered aggressive advertising of designer brands a key cause of last year’s rioting. Aggressive marketing and enforcement of branding creates a demand for objects that low-income sectors of the society simply cannot afford. Big businesses, targeting children and young adults, have created a damaging consumerist culture in some of the most deprived parts of the country. In fact, the panel’s Neighbourhood Survey found that 85 per cent of people feel advertising puts pressure on young people to own the latest products and two-thirds of people feel materialism among young people is a problem within their local area.
Yet, aggressive advertising is a big feature of the Olympics (the LOGOC* have their very own report entitled Brand Protection) and ambush marketing (the association and consequent capitalization on a particular event without paying sponsorship fees) is one of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games’s major concerns. In addition to the concentration of world-famous sporting personalities, the Olympics has now become an effective publicity platform for the advertisement of a plethora of objects, many of which are completely unrelated to sports. In an attempt to keep up with a world rebuilt in a corporate image, the Games have secured sponsorship deals domestic and abroad, ironically culminating in a £20m-plus sponsorship deal with Cadbury. In light of the UK’s childhood obesity problem, some argue that a sweet brand should not promote a sporting event.
The Games now embody changes in our society that are incredibly remote from their notional or founding ideals. Increasingly obsessed with the global gaze and the prestige that hosting the Olympics will achieve within the media, the games are keen to promote big brands, and discourage (if necessary by using force) smaller brands that challenge the hegemony of prime corporate sponsors (including MacDonald’s, Visa and Dow Chemical). This will undoubtedly translate into hours of sponsor-related TV ads plaguing our television screens during the summer months and the city of London being literally branded by these bigger brands. In a city agitated by record levels of unemployment and rising social protests, the continual bombardment on the TV screen by designer brands of over-priced products, which will now be rendered all the more desirable and unaffordable by the Olympics logo stamped on the side, is surely not a good thing. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel’s recommendation that steps need to be taken to reduce the amount of excessive and aggressive advertising aimed at young people should perhaps, in the essence of social responsibility, be listened to sooner, rather than later.

 

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Sponsors Ambush Spectators

Ambush marketing is something that is causing much concern to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). It is an issue that has already been causing panic, with numerous reports of alleged ambush marketers coming to light in the last few years, and LOCOG fear that it will become even more intense in the coming months as we get closer to the start of the games. However, if you are wondering what ambush marketing is exactly, let me explain. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined it as “all intentional and unintentional attempts to create a false or unauthorised commercial association with the Olympic Movements or the Olympic Games”, which is a fairly selfish definition on their part. Honda has been under investigation by LOCOG following the release of a 2011 ad campaign which featured numerous British Olympic athletes. Furthermore, BMW are the official car sponsor of the Olympics.

However, the IOC’s definition also seems to include small businesses who could be seen as trying to rival McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Visa, who are also official sponsors of the Olympics. The official sponsors have paid almost unimaginable amounts of money to be associated with the mega event, and they are most keen to protect their investment against all ‘rivals’ trying to associate themselves with the Olympics for free. Small businesses could also be potentially fined up to £20,000 without even realising that any crime had been committed, with LOCOG taking a zero tolerance approach on all ambushers. Surely, with big multinational corporations putting small companies out of business all over the world, LOCOG’s wrath should only be directed at the multinationals, but at least McDonald’s will be safe from the threat caused by small businesses.

The spectators at the Olympics this summer are also not safe and could potentially be turned away, or have items taken away from them if they are not products of the official sponsors. At the 2006 football World Cup in Germany before the start of a match, some spectators “were forced to watch the game in their underwear after being forced to remove their orange lederhosen linked to a ambusher brewer”, possibly a sign of things to come. But now that the Olympics has become an advertisement for products that have no connection to sport, and that the world is being rebuilt in a corporate image, and we now no longer have the right to even wear our own clothes, everything is now falling in to place for this years Games to be the most successful yet.

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Social Media Ban For Olympic Volunteers

The 70,000 London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers have been told that they are banned from posting about the games on social media sites. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have released a document detailing what volunteers can and can not say. In the document volunteers have been asked not to mention details about their role, their location or about the athletes. However, this does seem to contradict British Olympic Association Chief Executive Andy Hunt’s statement that “The International Olympic Committee themselves are really pushing the use of social media and we support that“.

Jean Tomlin (LOCOG HR Director), who blogged in 2011 on the London 2012 website, said that the “Volunteers are the lifeblood of London 2012″. It certainly seems apparent that without the help and the passion of the volunteers, who are giving up their free time to ensure the success of the games, the London Olympics would not be possible. However, with such an infringement on civil liberties LOCOG certainly seem more than willing to dig a yet deeper hole for themselves.

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The Security Olympics

The Olympic Legacy has been an idea under siege since the term was first bandied about. Today though, Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle university has published a damning indictment of the Legacy in the Guardian. His essay outlines how the security operation surrounding the games is not only about security, but instead about the promotion of corporate and political interests, thinly veiled by the non-description of public interest and safety.

Graham’s article does not make for light or quick reading, but here are a few of the ideas to get you going:

With the required numbers of security staff more than doubling in the last year, estimates of the Games’ immediate security costs have doubled from £282m to £553m. Greece’s security costs for their Olympic Games were a major contributor, as part of the overall £10bn costs, to Greece’s subsequent debt crisis. Current estimates for the London Olympic Games stand the costs around £26bn.

More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed in the London operation than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure. On top of this, an aircraft carrier will be moored on the Thames, and drones will patrol over the ceremonies.

New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. One such law allows police to arrest or eject anyone that does not comply with the ‘celebratory look and feel’ of the Games – in theory to prevent unofficial advertising. However, corporate interests aside, the odds that this law will be utilised only against advertisers are long.

The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested – especially in democracies. These often work to “purify” or “cleanse” diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as “waste” or “derelict” spaces to be transformed by mysterious “trickle-down effects”. The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. To make way for the Beijing Games, 1.5 million were evicted; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.

Spiraling costs, social cleansing, Government privatisation policy, and suppression of the population – these are all “bigger picture” issues. The everyday realities of the games seem to pale in comparison.  As Professor Graham delivers a strong blow to the pomp and sanctimony of the London Organising Committee, he highlights their priorities articulately but with subtlety. It seems that bankrupting the country is an acceptable price for establishing the Olympic legacy – oppressive security measures and extensive privatisation of any service in reach.

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Olympic Tickets – Seb Coe’s “obsession with secrecy”

 

Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), Lord Sebastian Coe, has been accused of having an “obsession with secrecy” over the Olympic ticket allocation process. At the London Assembly Dee Doocey, the chair of the assembly’s Economy, Sport and Culture Committee, claims that a statistical analysis and breakdown of tickets “should be available at the hit of a button”, but is being avoided using data protection.

When asked how many of the tickets already sold fall below the £50 mark, Lord Coe said he would not answer until the remaining four million tickets were sold. He claimed that to do so would be providing “partial information” and added his staff “will not provide a running commentary”. His refusal to answer the question clearly sparked anger amongst the assembly members with Conservative member Andrew Boff saying “what you’re saying is that we are too thick to understand the job you are doing and you will not give us the information. That is an insult”.

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Olympic Realities

 

Landlords in east London are already hiking up pricing in anticipation of big profits this summer. Accommodation during the Olympics is shaping up to be very big business- hotels have been booked for months and so private landlords are stepping in to fill the hole in the market. The result of this, however, is massively inflated rent. Long-term tenants are being given the choice between arbitrary rent increases or notices of eviction to make space for short-term tenancies. More on Metro.

Hoteliers and theatre owners have raised fears that foreign tourists could avoid the capital because of the Olympics and possible transport problems. Culture Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt, admitted that there would be “displacement”, with fewer traditional, foreign tours coming to London this summer.

To soothe these worries, a £4m TV advertising campaign for domestic holidays is due to begin next month in an effort to persuade the population to stay in the country this summer for the games. The advert exclaims, “There’s so much happening in Britain in 2012, why on earth would you want to go abroad?” Quire right, Mr Hunt – who wouldn’t want to sit in front their TV all summer?

He added: “You’ll kick yourself if you don’t come to London this summer.” And you will; for missing out on all the chaos in the capital. (A new spectator sport for the Olympics?) No transport, no tickets (to the games, to the Olympic Park, to theatres, no hotel rooms or restaurant tables), annexing of public spaces, no jobs, no beer, wildly inflated prices; the list of crises/idiocies goes on.

Seven hundred bars and clubs that receive deliveries from The Brewery Logistics Group are situated on the 109-mile Olympic Route network. Special “Zil lanes” will be in operation on a third of the network and are typically closed to all but official Games traffic from 6am until midnight, making daytime deliveries difficult. Mike Bracey, the group’s chairman, said: “The Olympics for us is the ultimate nightmare and time is running out to find a solution. London Councils and LOCOG are standing in the way of the solutions we have proposed about altering our routes and operating times.” He added: “But if there is no breakthrough then our members will have to either meet huge costs in getting the deliveries through or the beer won’t arrive at all.”
All these disruptions are in the name of the Games… Or profit. Where the London Organising Committee of the  Olympic Games are concerned, the two terms are relatively interchangeable.

 

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