Anti-gay law set for Winter Olympic Russia

To be gay and compete in the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi seems to become a problem. An anti-gay bill, to outlaw “Homosexual propaganda” which would involve making public display of affection by same-sex couples and public events that promote gay right illegal, is working its way through Russian parliament. Some cities in Russia, such as St. Petersburg, already similar laws.

If the new law gets approved, which it seems it will, gay athletes will not be allowed to talk about their sexuality or show their partners affection in public. It also prevents athletes who has not stepped out of the closet yet to do that anytime soon, since that might make them a target for discrimination during the winter olympics.

Vancouver and London hosted a Pride House for their gay fans and athletes, but even if a gay-rights group in Russia wanted to do the same the members claims the Russian Ministry of Justice banned them for doing so.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says that they can not do anything about there not being a Pride House in Sochi since they have no responsibility for the various national or special interest houses common during the Olympics. They also claims that there will not be any discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.

You would think though that IOC would be big and powerful enough to be able to make the Russian Ministry of Justice to remove their ban from the Pride House, especially since they are keen to make sure that everybody knows they are against any kind of discrimination.

Marc Naimark, from the Federation of Gay games, says: “When they choose a country that’s homophobic, they send a message to the world and to gay athletes, among those messages is, ‘if you’re not out, stay in the closet.”

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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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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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Plans to reveal yet another statue.

The Camden New Journal yesterday uncovered plans to erect a statue of Christ the Redeemer on Primrose Hill. The statue will be a tribute to the one overlooking Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate passing on the torch (pun begrudgingly intended) to Brazil for 2016.

The Brazilian government would fund the project, and a planning consultancy based in London has been employed by Brazil’s tourist agency to hold a public meeting to display the designs before applications for planning permission are submitted.

The Camden-based design company See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me did not want to discuss the plans, and the Brazilian government was unavailable for comment, but Primrose Hill Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed.

Other statues to celebrate the Olympics have been erected around Britain, often to the displeasure of residents. The ‘Jurassic Stones’ statue, by Richard Harris, has been greeted with horror by residents of Weymouth, Dorset. The Stones’ £335,000 bill pales in comparison to the £19m spent on Anish Kapoor’s ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’, on site in Stratford.

 

Many people question why so much money is being spent on statues to celebrate the Olympics, and whether it is appropriate in the current economic climate. The term ‘Legacy’ has always been used to describe the impact of mega-events like the Games: urban development, social, economic and cultural changes are words often thrown around in relation to the Legacy. However, the term has been re-appropriated by critics of the Games and become somewhat of a joke. The Legacy that does seem to be taking shape is symbolised in the statues cropping up around the country – abstracted, distorted, and expensive.

The real Olympic Legacy will be towering debt.

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Havelange leaves IOC just days before hearing

Joao Havelange has resigned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) just days before an ethics commission was due to deliver their findings on allegations he received bribes when FIFA president.

With his resignation the investigation is likely to be dropped on the  grounds that the committee no longer have jurisdiction over him.

Fifa also confirmed Havelange’s resignation adding: “Fifa has taken note of Joao Havelange’s resignation as IOC member and the fact that the IOC has closed the case accordingly.”

The 95-year-old  was the IOC’s longest-serving member having joined in 1963. He served as Fifa president between 1974 and 1978, before he was replaced by Sepp Blatter.

Two other IOC members, International Association of Athletics Federations president Lamine Diack and Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football, will have their cases considered by the committee on Thursday.

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Justice for Bhopal – Stop Dow Chemicals sponsorship for London Olympics

Dow Chemicals is sponsoring millions of dollars to the London Olympics at the cost of the lives of 25,000 people who died inhaling the poisonous gas on the 3rd of December 1984 in Bhopal, India. Union Carbide, the company responsible for the mishandling of the large tanks containing the poisonous pesticide methyl isocyanate, is currently owned by Dow Chemicals. The organizations fighting for justice complained that they have received only 15% of the actual compensation they deserve. Union Carbide paid a part compensation of $470 mn. in 1989 after bowing down to the enormous pressure from activists and partly the Indian Government.

The compensations received then were based on the incorrect numbers presented by the Indian government, which has been constantly pestered by the organizations demanding justice. The official website for Justice in Bhopal mentions that the compensation received considered 5295 deaths but in reality 22,917 deaths have been reported due to the direct effects of the deadly gas. Also only 4902 were listed earlier as permanently disabled which is in complete contrast to the actual number which stands at more than 500,000. No compensation was provided to victims with temporary disability or minor injuries. 

The politicians who have been constantly reminded by the activists to bring the American company to trial have eventually won the attention of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, SS Chauhan joining the protests and asking for a boycott of the Games by India. Bhopal is the provincial capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Indian Government later asked the Indian Olympic Association to raise the issue with the International Olympic Committee. Although the Sports Minister has confirmed that no such action will be taken by the Indian Olympic Association.

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the London Olympics has insisted that the organisers will go ahead with the sponsorship deal. This statement created a massive hatred for Seb Coe in Bhopal and his effigies were burnt.

This is not the first time Dow Chemicals have been accused of playing dirty games. In its ugly past they produced napalm for the United States government during the Vietnam War and have also been responsible for leaking of poisonous plutonium in America for which they were sued. They have multiple sites in USA which are harmful and are labelled as dangerous owing to Dow Chemicals dirty activities. The 10 year deal with the Olympic Committee means Dow Chemicals will supply its chemical to the organizers for construction raising millions of dollars.

Five leading groups who have been responsible for keeping the fight alive have held numerous rallies across the city and the state capital Delhi. The most recent rally was the ‘Rail Roko Andholan’ (Stop the Trains Movement) which was highly successful when the protesters stopped all trains passing through Bhopal which lies in the heart of the 1.3bn population country.

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How to sponsor the Olympics in 4 easy steps…

Calling all Olympic 2012 sponsors!

Did you know that London can have that glossy just-out-of-the-showroom clean city look in four easy steps?

Consumers Spectators will get the chance to experience that special Olympic “feeling” by seeing your products on billboards all the way to each sporting venue. Not only that, with careful planning you will be guaranteed (yes, guaranteed!) maximum exposure in all other parts of the capital.

Here’s all you need to do:

1. Seek out people wearing clothes advertising rival products and either get them to wear them inside out or use masking tape to cover up the offending image so they’re not spotted on TV.

2. Rename well-known buildings  if they are sponsored by a rival brand (think O2 Arena.)

3. Book up as much billboard space as possible in and around the capital so your competitors can’t get a look-in.

4. Remove all of your rivals drinks and food from all “Olympic family” establishments so only your products can be consumed.

Simples!

To find out more click here.

 

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Missed Opportunity for Olympic High Tech Legacy

Back in March 2011 The Wellcome Trust made a £1bn offer to transform the Olympic Park into a ‘global hub for research and innovation’.

Yet the offer was rejected by the Olympic Delivery Authority who instead sold the Olympic Village to Qatari Diar and Delancey Estates for £557m, who will develop the site into a neighbourhood of over 2000 homes.

The Wellcome Trust noted on their website that the rejection was a huge disappointment for them, stating:

‘The Wellcome Trust is disappointed that the Government and the Mayor of London did not wish to take our proposals for the Olympic Park further. If our bid had been successful, our holistic vision for the Olympic Park and the legacy would have delivered a world-class centre for technology and innovation and up to 7000 high-quality new jobs, and it would have made a substantial contribution to the regeneration of East London’

The decision to reject the offer was initially founded on the basis that the £1bn bid made by The Wellcome Trust did not meet the amount that has already been invested into the Olympic Park prior to the bid and that their plans for the site would not provide taxpayers with sufficient value for money.

Yet both Saffron Woodcraft and Ian Birrell argue that this is a missed opportunity for an Olympic Legacy. Whilst The Wellcome Trust plan promised to provide 7000 jobs, the provision of social housing and ‘further social infrastructure’, this offer has been turned down in favour of investors who plan to transform most of the site into private housing, putting into question just how beneficial this decision is for the local residents and for taxpayers. Woodcraft and Birrell suggest that the International Olympic Committee’s decision is one based on short term rather than long term benefits. As Birrell argues:

‘…they are focussing on short-term profits by looking to sell the lucrative athlete’s village to the Qatari Royal family in conjunction with a private firm of property developers’.

This is just another decision, others including Greenwich Park and the new Stratford Westfield Shopping Centre, where the International Olympic Committee has put their interests and the interests of their sponsors before those of Londoners. Perhaps, as Birrell puts it:

‘Infrastructure is built to suit the demands of the International Olympic Committee, not the needs of the host city’.

 

 

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New Olympic legacy website: London-Rio: Olympic Cities

Mega Event Cities

London-Rio: Olympic Cities

“Cities across the globe are using mega events to catalyse urban development and social, economic and cultural change. Here we present insights and analysis of these events, examining their impact upon city-building and exploring their contribution to the design and shaping of place.

Our research is policy focused and practical. Our approach is focused upon the social impacts and legacies of mega events. We use interdisciplinary analysis to discover new ways of comparing and thinking about the mega event city.

We are interested in receiving comments on the site and suggestions for relevant material or links to be placed on it. The site will be dedicated primarily to housing academic work on the social legacies of mega events, particularly those referring to London 2012 or Rio 2016. We would also welcome links to our site being placed in sites addressing similar themes.”

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