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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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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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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Green Olympics claims must be assessed

A long weekend of celebration was sealed with another internationally significant marriage at the 9th World Conference on Sport and the Environment in Doha, which came to a close yesterday. Though it lacked the same grandeur and sparkle of Mr and Mrs Future King, the conference – attended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – contained no less of the self-congratulation. The back slapping was mainly orchestrated by IOC President Jacques Rogue, who restated the IOC’s commitment to environmental sustainability as part of the Olympic Games, “We owe it to future generations to continue to promote our green agenda and ensure environmental sustainability in sport and I think we have taken a big step towards that with the Doha Declaration.” The declaration focuses on direct activities related to the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development in sport.

Rogge also insisted that efforts to make sport more sustainable, “set a new standard for environmental sustainability in construction practices, energy conservation and legacy planning.” It’s a bold statement, and a pretense which no doubt helped sway the Olympic bid decision. It comes back to the same word – legacy. As Spectacle has referenced numerous times on this blog, statements like this tend to go unchallenged and unnoticed. But thankfully, this hasn’t always been the case.

Wanstead Flats – one of the many public spaces to be transformed into concrete structures as part of the Olympics

There have been several reports and accounts of activities on behalf of the Olympic construction that have amounted to a very damning assessment of the Olympics’ green credentials. The biggest contradiction of the promised green legacy, is the slow disappearance of green public space in favour of concrete construction. Wanstead Flats, a vast open grassland in Epping Forest, will be an operational centre for the Metropolitan Police (you can see a short film of the Wanstead Flats protest here), Arena Fields and the East Marsh, a third of Hackney Marshes – which up until the Games was the largest amateur playing fields in Europe – will become a car park, Manor Gardens Allotments has also disappeared (you can also see footage and interviews of the Gardens before they were demolished here), Clays Lane – a self-sufficient green community – have been built over and their residents evicted, and a substantial amount of Greenwich Park will become an equestrian centre. This achieves the exact opposite of each of the activities listed above, as well as negative impacts on additional targets of sports participation, ecological biodiversity and opportunities for local residents. There is also a general fear that the facilities that the Olympics have promised to develop to replace the space lost will be inaccessible to many people due to private owners charging for use.

The Green Party have released a very critical report on the environmental impact of the Olympic Games, named Hurdles to Jump, which accuses the organisations behind the Olympics of setting very low environmental standards to begin with. Adam White, a spokesman for the Green Party, said that, “in many areas their future plans don’t go far enough.” Among the standards questioned by the publication include the slightly anaemic declaration that 3% of energy will come from solar and wind-turbine sources, and only 20% of the energy for the Olympic Village will come from renewable sources. To make a comparison with previous Olympic Games, every home in the Olympic Village in Sydney had a solar panel. The Greens also noted that the targets would not reach the more general environmental regulations that will be in place by 2012, as well as commenting on the allowances for car travel, “…the amount of car parking provided is too high for the goal of a 100% public transport, walking and cycling for spectators”. Traffic is forecasted to increase threefold in the aftermath of the games. Which if you’d promised less cars and not more cars could technically be spun as a surprise. Car parks have also, historically, proved to be a thorn in the side of environmentalism.

Olympics development on Hackney Marshes

One of the more high profile incidents has been the toxic waste cleanup operation which may well cost the taxpayer £12.7m, reported by the Guardian in November. Amongst other colourful chemicals released was vinyl chloride, which can produce microbes from solvents and remain in groundwater for decades. While this is a small drop in the ocean in comparison to the drastic overspend of the Olympic grand total, it is nevertheless money that could have been spent better elsewhere. Certainly better than a twirling steel tower. The discrepancies are stacking up, particularly with the revelations that the Olympics’ green targets aren’t particularly ambitious, and the premise of a green Olympics, a platform upon which the bidding committee stood proudly at the time of the announcement of London’s winning bid, looks to be slipping away.

One of the few legitimate arguments for the Olympics being a nomadic event is that it would act as a catalyst for sustainable investment and development, otherwise why not keep the Olympics in one location? Surely if the Olympics 2012 are judged to have failed to provide this investment – a huge opportunity for London and England to lead by example – then the travelling nature of the competition must be reconsidered in light of the sacrifices needed to stage it. The most interesting aspect of the argument is whether or not the various agencies behind the developments of the Olympics will be (or can be) held accountable, if indeed the legacies they promise do not materialise. The premise of a green Olympics was posted on this blog in the last few weeks, the trumpeting of positive grassroots sports and participation impacts has abruptly ceased due to reports that stated a contrary reality. Will the IOC and the London Development Agency (LDA) be allowed to quietly walk away if they fail to meet their green targets? If inaccurate claims on this scale are not challenged, then increasingly grandiose, unfounded promises will continue to be made to secure contracts that allow unchecked – and in many cases unlawful – planning and construction.

Sources: Raising The Bar, published by the Green Party; The Guardian; Londonoutloud.com; ODA’s Sustainable Development Strategy & Olympic.org (Official website of the Olympic Movement)

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International and US Olympic Committees Continue Link with BP

Jacques Rogge – president of the IOC. Courtesy of United Nations Photo

Since the devastating oil spill earlier this year, BP (British Petroleum) have found it a little difficult to big up their green credentials. Unsurprisingly, the International and US Olympic Committees (IOC and USOC) have spoken up about their continued support for BP. Or perhaps more specifically, continuing their support of the BP sponsorship which floats around the figure of £50 million they received a short while ago.

Other illustrious London 2012 sponsors include Dow Chemicals, Coca Cola and BMW… As previously mentioned on the Spectacle blog, the official 2012 Olympic sponsors reads like a who’s who of greenwash and corporate irresponsibility. But as long as Sebastian Coe is happy and the Olympics are still rolling into town, who cares?

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