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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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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Whose Common is it, really?

The Olympic Delivery Authority/London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (ODA/LOCOG) expected Greenwich Council to grant planning permission for Circus Field to be used for the purposes of the Olympics, even though no details of the proposed use have been included in the public consultation documents.

To this end, LOCOG wanted to be able to enclose parts of the grounds for the equestrian events there. However, for this they needed permission from a Regional Development Authority. This little legal mechanism is to avoid national authorities from riding roughshod over smaller, regional areas.

To get around such sticky planning issues, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, was drafted to include, among the purposes of a Regional Development Authority (s.36(1)), the task of preparing for the Olympic Games. However, by virtue of s.36(2), the may only prepare directly “at the request of the Olympic Delivery Authority.” Therefore the responsibility of the Regional Development Authority (specifically now the London Development Agency) is acting at the request of the ODA, in this instance, in acquiring a short lease of Circus Field from the Crown Estates owner of this part of the registered common. Part of the Olympics Act (Section 36 paragraph 3(c)) also stated that “no enactment regulating the use of commons, open spaces or allotments shall prevent or restrict the use of the land for construction, other works or any other purpose (but this paragraph does not disapply a requirement for planning permission)”.

All of this means is that the ODA can directly order the Regional Development Authority to apply for permission to build on whatever common they so desire.

However, as Mrs. Mawhood, who works independently and on behalf of NOGOE 2012, has pointed out, Circus Field is not a “registered common”, it is Metropolitan Common Land. This places it in the remit of the Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act 1871, which creates its own restrictions: “The Commissioners shall not entertain an application for the enclosure of a metropolitan common, or any part thereof” (Section 5) This does suggest that a separate act of parliament is required to enclose a Metropolitan Common…

Nothing will stop LOCOG though! They have have now signed a tenancy of 12 months granted by the Crown Estate to the ODA by virtue of new legislation. This agreement overrides the need for any permission (apart from planning) from Greenwich.

This only lends yet more credibility to the accusation that the Olympics is not a project which listens to opposition, especially on planning grounds, where the rules are simply rewritten to suit the project’s needs.

 

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Olympic Equestrian Event Debacle Continues

No tree will be cut down…

Preparations for the controversial equestrian events to be held in Greenwich Park are still underway, despite ever mounting pressure from groups and individuals protesting the decision. Among the numerous concerns over damage to the park, which is a world heritage site, there are fears of gridlock across the city, abuses of planning permission by LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), and most worryingly of all, the safety of the public.

The planning application, published 8th Dec 2009, shows that the rare acid grassland will not be fully restored and reopened until “November 2015”, during which time a great deal of permanent damage will have been done to the park. Greenwich Park is a Conservation Area, every one of the approximately 3,000 trees  in the Park has a Tree Preservation Order on it, but despite this and assurances that “no tree will be cut down”, extensive ‘pruning’ has been underway. Several fragile trees have had major limbs amputated for the end of better camera sight-lines; injury from which some will not recover.

Although Greenwich Royal Park is the FEI’s (Fédération Equestre Internationale) preferred venue for the 2012 equestrian events, LOCOG has not made the smallest attempt to comply with the FEI Code of Conduct towards the Environment. The FEI’s code states that the protection of the environment must always prevail over the technical requirements of the various disciplines when organising events and in particular in the following cases:
a) Harmonious integration: Equestrian facilities should be built or converted
so as to ensure their harmonious integration into the local context,
whether natural or man-made, and in accordance with considerate
planning of land use.
b) Preservation of countryside: Equestrian events such as Driving, Endurance
and Eventing (cross country phase) must be so arranged as to ensure the
protection of conservation areas, the countryside, the cultural heritage and
natural resources as a whole.

Clearly, LOCOG’s systematic mutilation of the park does not fall within these guidelines.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (Section 5 (4a)) contains a clause in it’s Planning section that allows the Olympic Delivery Authority to disregard a section of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (Part III, Section 74, (1b)). This section pertains to the manner in which a local authority regulates planning permission applications, particularly  “for authorising the local planning authority to grant planning permission for development which does not accord with the provisions of the development plan”. The local planning authority has just stood idly by while LOCOG hacks up the park, without uttering a squeak of protest.

However, the LOCOG steamroller does not stop there. The Games organisers have implemented regulations “intended to meet commitments by the UK Government to the International Olympics Committee. The main aims are:
-to ensure all Olympic and Paralympic events have a consistent celebratory look and feel to them,
-to prevent ambush marketing within the vicinity of the venues; and
-to ensure people can easily access the venues.
To achieve these aims, “Interferences with the rights to freedom of expression and protection of one’s possessions may be justified on related grounds” (Paragraph 7, Human Right Assessment, The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Advertising and Trading) (England) Regulations 2011 Impact Assessment). These interferences include “An interference with the right to be presumed innocent will be justified where it is confined “within reasonable limits which take into account the importance of what it at stake and maintain the rights of the defence” (Paragraph 24). Or, putting it another way, if anyone is caught interfering with the ‘consistent celebratory look and feel’ of the event, they can be presumed not to be innocent and, no doubt, removed.

The most worrying aspect of LOCOG’s irresponsibility where Greenwich Park is concerned relates to the safety of the public. The Royal Parks’ own “Guidelines for Event Organisers 2010” state that the capacity of the park provides for up to 15,000 and *possibly* more for “certain events”. This is nothing like the 50,000 (the number of cross-country day tickets that LOCOG say they have already sold). In the past, for example at the beginning of the London Marathon, there have been up to 21,000 runners in the park for a few hours at a time, and this with 9-10 exits available. However, the Olympic equestrian events will continue all day for several days and the area will be surrounded by fences, potentially with electrified tops. There are only three planned exits from the event zone. How difficult will it be to evacuate 50,000 people through 3 exits in 2-8 minutes? How difficult will it be to do this safely?

It is not difficult, however, to see how easily this could all descend into chaos. Even despite the risk of terrorism during the Olympic Games this summer, such irresponsible cramming of people into an undersized venue poses huge risks to the safety of those hoping to attend the events.

Clearly, LOCOG’s priority is once again with their sales, not with their responsibilities to the Park, the quality of the games, the public….

 


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