The Regeneration Games

By Mark Saunders, 12 September 2007

Originally published by Mute Magazine

Whatever the overruns on time and cost, one thing the London 2012 Olympics is certain to deliver is a huge public debt. The enormous bill for two weeks of telematic sport is legitimated by promises of urban regeneration but in reality the games are a corporate landgrab facilitating the looting of nature and labour as prices go up and people are pushed out, argues Mark Saunders


On the 6 July 2005, crowds of Londoners gathered on Trafalgar Square for an Olympic ‘decision day’ event. With no real expectation of winning, the Olympic Bid Team had billed it as a ‘Thank You London, Thank You UK’ day. Crowds could watch on giant screens the International Olympic Committee’s decision on the host city for 2012. It would probably be Paris.

Up on the platform, a host of London 2012 ambassadors expectantly held hands. All white teeth, perma-smiles, and synthetic fabrics, they prepared themselves for sporting and gracious defeat. It would surely be Paris.

At 12:49, the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge, made his dramatic announcement. The winner is… pause… pause squared… (the open mics amplifying the deafening silence)… London.


News item, 2005, commenting on London Olympics, 2012

A moment of disbelief… Not Paris? Then the crowd erupted in celebration.

That evening, TV newsreaders had particularly puckered brows and quizzical looks as they announced the news. Despite being the top story, it had the ‘would you believe it’ feel of the light-hearted ‘and finally…’ item, intended to put viewers back into a happy consumer mindset for the rest of the night’s fare.

The blue wall surrounding construction for London Olympics 2012

NO DAY AFTER

The euphoria was destroyed within 24 hours when the 7/7 bombs exploded on London’s public transport. Four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters and injured 700. The events of the day before seemed remote, doubly unbelievable and distant. Some frivolous aberration from a naïve time the other side of a watershed moment.

Seb Coe and his Olympic Bid entourage returned to London to a muted welcome, after celebrating all night at what Coe described as the ‘mother of all parties’ on the banks of the Singapore River. Despite being ‘shocked and saddened’, their return had the air of galavanting playboys who had had a high old time while at home all hell let loose.

The bombings overshadowed all debate. In the public consciousness, the Olympic party in Trafalgar Square had had no ‘day after’. As the media dust settled, the London Olympic reality slipped back into view. Like some post-traumatic flashback, computer animations of the Olympic site on TV showed a grey expanse turning green. Dome-shaped structures mushroomed everywhere like 1950s lunar bases linked by wobbly bridge walkways.

Out went the sporty types, in came the suit-and-tie squad. It was the men’s tri-athletes: legal, PR, and planning. It’s time to hide behind the sofa, because this is the invasion of the technocrats all those politicos were warning you about.

WHY LONDON?


News item, 2005, commenting on London Olympics, 2012

The main reason London won was because it was not France. The Olympics is basically corporate America in Lycra. The US Olympic Committee receives 20 percent of marketing revenues and 12.75 percent of TV income from the Olympic Games – a dominance that concerns other National Olympic Committees. The US is a serial Olympic host: St. Louis in 1904, Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984 (and a bid for 2016), Atlanta in 1996, and Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980, Squaw Valley 1960 and Salt Lake City in 2002.

Since the Gulf War, the US has been virulently anti-French. There was no way that McDonald’s or Coca Cola, the latter a major sponsor for the past 80 years, were going to let those smug surrender monkeys enjoy the reflected glory and glitz of corporate America. After all, it was France that forced McDonalds to deviate from the one-size-fits-all burger because of their finicky eating habits.

The Bush regime and its business allies know all about mega-spectacles like the Olympics. Recall 1 May 2003, when Bush landed a fighter jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, delivering his Iraq victory speech standing in front of a giant ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign.

It’s all about image. And such sophisticated connoisseurs of the spectacle are hardly likely to squander the global arse-kicking razzmatazz of their athletes sweeping up medals just to puff up the French cock… er…

A MODEL OF MULTICULTURALISM

Rather than confessing to it being a reward for British military support of the US in Iraq, and perhaps to pre-empt accusations of bribery, the London Olympic Committee claimed the UK was favoured over France (which, after all, had all the infrastructure in place) because of London’s (and particularly East London’s) tolerance, multiculturalism, and ethnic diversity. There is nothing in the constitution or history of the International Olympic Committee that betrays this concern.


News item, 2005 commenting on London Olympic bid, 2012

In 2006, an international coalition of human rights organisations issued a joint statement saying that the International Olympic Committee has failed to protect Olympic ideals citing continuing human rights violations and political propaganda abuse of the Games by the Chinese government.

Multiculturalism? It would be surprising if the IOC even thought about it. Had it done so, it would soon have had concerns about the UK. In one typical week earlier this year, stories in the national newspapers included the following:

The Conservative homeland security spokesman, Patrick Mercer, stepped down after saying that being called a ‘black bastard’ was part-and-parcel of life in the armed forces.[1]

Magistrate reprimanded for ‘bloody foreigners’ outburst in court. Mr Mitchell, a magistrate for 36 years, did not accept the punishment issued by the Office of Judicial Complaints, part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and remains on the active list.[2]

Police accused of brutality after officer beat 19 year old woman during arrest at night club. An investigation into alleged police brutality was launched last night after a black teenage epileptic woman was filmed being repeatedly punched by a policeman, while two colleagues held her down outside a Sheffield nightclub.[3]

These are all examples of institutional racism. It may be that on the East London street and within communities, there is a certain class based solidarity and community cohesion across and beyond race. But to describe the East End as a model for multiculturalism is simplistic. While the area does have a long history of fighting fascism and racism, from resisting Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 to Bengali youth reclaiming Brick Lane from the National Front in the 1980s, it sadly has often been in response to an equally long history of racism and intolerance.

In 1968, ex-Tory minister Enoch Powell’s speech in which he predicted ‘rivers of blood’ if black immigration continued inspired several hundred London dock workers to strike and stage an ‘Enoch is right’ march.

In 1986 Tower Hamlets Liberals proposed to put hundreds of homeless families (mainly Bengalis) into ships moored on the Thames. A report by the Commission for Racial Equality in 1988 found Tower Hamlets Liberal Council guilty of allocating ethnic minorities disproportionately to poor quality estates.

In local elections in 1995, the total number of votes cast for far-Right parties in Britain amounted to just over 20 thousand. The vast majority were cast in East London. On 5 May 2006, the British National Party (BNP) gained 11 of the 13 seats it contested in the East London districts of Barking and Dagenham, becoming the second biggest party.

There are incidents of race hate crimes in the Olympic area, but there is also the manipulation of racial tension for political ends. In her paper, ‘Playing the ethnic card – politics and ghettoisation in London’s East End’, Sarah Glynn details how local politics has linked territory and race.[4] From the mid-1980s, the Tower Hamlets Liberals had in effect used housing policies based on ethnicity to divide and rule. They had systematically shifted the blame for housing shortage onto the homeless (predominantly Bengalis) while continuing to sell off housing and land.

High unemployment, scarce and neglected housing, excluded from the dockland development boom – there were reasons for local residents of the Isle of Dogs to be angry. The Island’s relatively small Bengali population provided an easy scapegoat. Similarly, the Olympics is bound to intensify competition for housing, especially with an expanding buy-to-let sector hyping rents. Locals, already squeezed between two of Europe’s biggest business districts, Docklands and the City of London, are going to find themselves surrounded on all sides by intensive gentrification. It would be ironic if racial tension were to deflect from class-based ‘yuppies out’ hostility to the gentrification and privatisation of space in the East End that the ‘multicultural’ London Olympics will presage.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Paris was favourite to win the Games because it has much of the necessary infrastructure in place. In opting for London, the International Olympic Committee must surely have chosen to ignore the UK’s unique history of infrastructure and stadia construction fiascos. The newly refurbished Wembley Stadium was originally set to cost under £400 million. The official overall cost of £757 million did not include the overruns and compensation compromises on the building works of £352 million. It opened two years late. The Millennium Dome, originally estimated to cost the National Lottery £399 million, came in at least twice over budget and only just made the New Year’s Eve opening for which it was built.

The blue wall surrounding construction for London Olympics 2012

During a debate on the economic and social benefits of the Olympics in the upper house, Lord James, a Tory peer, said that big business, including McDonald’s, BT, and British Airways, had run rings round the Government when negotiating sponsorship deals for the Dome. The Dome organisers had negotiated flawed contracts with major sponsors and had ended up receiving a fraction of the money they expected.

The overrun on the Dome all occurred on the management costs and the running of the Dome and its ancillary services […]. It resulted eventually in what amounts to an £811 million learning curve for the Government, which I sincerely hope they will be marking and using extensively in the lessons for the Olympics.

 2008 – coverage of Westfield construction for Olympics 2012,
London Tonight, itv local,

So the IOC must have thought it was worth a shot, statistically, that this time it would all go smoothly. But then they have nothing to lose.

ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE SHOW

As with the Poll Tax the media response to the Olympics has tended to concentrate on the costs and its implications for taxpayers, rather than the social injustices. The total Olympic budget is £9.3 billion, an increase of £5.9 billion from the original budget of £3.4 billion. When Tessa Jowell, the then culture secretary (now Minister for the Olympics), admitted in the House of Commons that the initial budget had not included the 17.5 percent cost of VAT on the construction of the venues and infrastructure, there were cries of incompetence. Nowhere was it remarked upon that nearly every bid is undervalued, not through incompetence but as a strategy. For London taxpayers, the Olympics are indeed a big story. Financing is split between the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). The ODA will ‘build the theatre’ – the infrastructure, venues, land remediation, and so on – and will be funded jointly by the public sector (64 percent), London taxpayers (13 percent), and the lottery (23 percent). The LOCOG, meanwhile, will ‘put on the show’ – everything from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony. This expenditure will be funded by the private sector out of ticket and merchandising sales, TV rights, and sponsorship. All the real costs and risk are therefore taken on by the public sector.

Sydney 2000 ended up costing over twice the pre-bid figures, according to the auditor-general of New South Wales. In Athens, total costs will be at least four times as high as the bid committee’s initial budget. The IOC insists that host nations cover any cost overruns. Basically, the public would never accept the Olympics if it knew the real cost.

THE PROMISES

The media were equally uncritical of the promised regeneration of East London, regurgitating the public relations press releases without seeming to question the ‘empty land’ myth or whether regeneration through sporting facilities is genuinely worthwhile.


News item, 2004, commenting on London Olympics, 2012

A common feature of regeneration schemes is verbal promises given by people who are clearly unable to deliver those promises. Lord Coe, director of the London Olympics, promised a successful bid would bring: ‘9,000 new homes, many affordable for local people’ and new shops, offices, community and health facilities, plus world class sporting facilites in a new park. Local businesses are likely to benefit from the influx of new visitors and from potentially winning contracts to service the Games.[5]

Affordable housing sounds good, but a recent, high profile scheme for subsidised ‘low-cost’ rent-and-buy housing in the East End requires applicants to have an annual income of at least £28,758 (£32, 644 for couples).[6]

The Olympics are very likely to have the opposite effect and make housing unaffordable for local people. In the run-up to the Sydney Olympics 2000, rent escalated and intensified evictions in the neighbourhoods alongside the Olympic development. In Barcelona, the 1992 Games were partly responsible for massive increases in costs of living in the city: between 1986 and 1992 the market price of housing grew by an average of 260 percent.

While the number of affordable new homes promised tends to come down over time, so the projected jobs figure seems to go onwards and upwards. A 2002 survey by engineering consultants Ove Arup calculated that

The Olympics will lead to the creation of 3,000 jobs and 4,000 new affordable homes for people in East London.

By 2007, London’s Employment and Skills Taskforce and the London Development Agency (LDA) were talking of the Olympics creating up to 50,000 new jobs in the Lower Lea Valley.

Dee Doocey, chair of the Committee for Economic Development, Culture, Sport, and Tourism, the leading committee on the London Assembly for scrutinising the Olympics, said locals could miss out unless language and construction skills were ‘urgently’ improved in the East London boroughs. As she said on her own website:

The last thing we need is another Docklands, where many of the newly created jobs did not benefit local people.

News item, commenting on London Olympics, 2012

Responding, the LDA pledged to make it a ‘priority’ to ensure locals in the five Olympic Boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest benefit from the new opportunities. Of the 720,000 people of working age living there, a quarter have no qualifications and, of these, over 60 percent are unemployed. Commenting on the announcement of a new ‘Living Wage’ for London of £7.20 an hour, Doocey, said:

The Mayor and Seb Coe signed an ‘Ethical contract’ with London Citizens before winning the Olympics, promising a Living Wage for everyone involved. Yet to date, no Living Wage has been included in the contracts allocated and Seb Coe told the London Assembly that ‘any of the issues about a living wage is a consideration, not a condition’. This is of great concern because LOCOG will be letting contracts for all the traditionally low paid jobs such as catering and cleaning.

As for local businesses exploiting the games, as Coe had suggested, it is more likely that existing businesses will be endangered. The director of H. Forman & Son, the UK’s oldest established salmon curer and one of the Lea Valley’s biggest and oldest companies, recently took to bringing a large aerial photograph of the proposed Olympic site to meetings, in order to show that far from being empty the Marshgate Lane area of Stratford includes 350 businesses with 15,000 employees. According to plans, these premises would be bulldozed to make way for the games.

The Institute for Practitioners in Advertising describe the marketing prohibitions defined in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Bill, which sets up the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) as ‘so extreme that it could technically lead to pubs being prosecuted for using chalkboards to flag up [TV] coverage of the Games’.[7] Protected Olympic trademarks include use of the words ‘Olympic’, ‘Olympiad’, and ‘Olympian’, ‘2012’, ‘London 2012’, ‘games’, ‘medals’, ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’, ‘sponsor’, ‘summer’; insignia such as the 2012 Games logo (and mascots), the Olympic rings, Team GB, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association logos, London’s bid logo; derivatives of London2012.com; and the Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger).[8] Ludicrously, 31 small firms throughout London reflecting the Greek diaspora will be forced to change their company names and shop fronts as a result of trademark conditions.

The companies likely to benefit are Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Visa, which have bought exclusive worldwide marketing rights via the Olympic Partner Programme. The BBC states that the IOC have made £790 million marketing revenue over the last four years from corporate sponsorship (35 percent of total), while LOCOG estimates that £580 million, or 40 percent of its operating budget, will come from this source.

THE PARK

The International Olympic Committee specifies the need for an integrated park. The IOC also demands that athletes should be accommodated in a village and not be required to walk for more than twenty minutes. The Olympic Park has been presented as ‘1500 landscaped acres’ representing ‘one of the biggest new city centre parks in Europe for 200 years.’ This ignores the fact that much of the Lower Lea Valley, where the park will be built, is an extensive network of waterways with important wildlife habitats on a key migratory route.

Animated representation of changes to East London landscape created by London Olympics 2012

For centuries ‘Parkification’ has been the instrument of choice for colonising the urban periphery, hinterlands and backwaters, socially cleansing those edgy zones of social marginalism and transgression, displacing the grey economies and polluting industries, taming the wild.

Although it has no formal position on the Olympics, the River Leas Trust, an environmental charity that works to preserve this wild environment, have told the London Olympic bid committee that ‘landscaping’ the area is inappropriate, particularly in the way represented in the ‘artists impression’ that the bid supporters are so proud of.

Hackney Marshes, once ancient common lands called Lammas Lands, were bequeathed in the 1890s by the Settlement of St. Mary Eton to the people of Hackney in perpetuity for recreational use as open space. Since that time Hackney Marshes has been home to amateur league football. Most London footballers have played there. Hackney Marshes holds the world record for the highest number (88) of full-sized football pitches in one place. On a typical Sunday, over 100 matches are played by amateur teams competing in several local leagues.

Johnny Walker, Chairman of Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League, talks about the effects of the London Olympics 2012

Johnny Walker, Chairman of Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League, talks about the substructure under Hackney Marshes created by WWII, and the effects of changes due to the London Olympics 2012

At a meeting set up by the Hackney Environment Forum on 24 July 2003, Neale Coleman, the London mayor’s advisor on the Olympic bid, countered fears that Hackney would lose its open space to stadium and temporary facilities, reassuring the meeting that there was ‘no question of permanent or temporary facilities on any part of Hackney Marshes’. Attached to the planning applications is a condition stating that the developing agency must provide exchange land for Common Land and open space taken up by the Olympic developments, a procedure required under the 1981 Acquisition of Land Act.

However, at the end of 2005, the New Lammas Lands Defence Committee were told by Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Guy Nicholson, that planners were defaulting on this obligation. Since then, a clause has been inserted in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Bill to remove this imperative. Anne Woollett, Chair of the Hackney Marsh User Group, states:

The Games cannot make any claims to being ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ while they steal Common Land, public open space and sports pitches for an Olympic car park. The London Development Agency (LDA) have now declared […] that they are not going to provide exchange land for East Marsh. It appears that the LDA have simply lobbied to legislate away their own statutory obligations.

Many are suspicious that when the car park is no longer needed it will be built on.

Video of Manor Gardens allotments, before London Olymics 2012 construction

Hidden away on the Olympic site is Manor Gardens Allotments. Founded by philanthropic aristocrat Major Arthur Villiers before WW1, the allotments have been feeding over 150 local East End families ever since. The LDA wants the site levelled and transformed into the central concrete walkway down the spine of the Olympic Park. Apparently, saving this unique and rare place by going around or over the allotments for a few weeks was not an option for security reasons.

Manor Garden’s former allotment holders describe the cultural, aesthetic, and ecological beauty of Manor Gardens which was wiped out for London Olympics 2012 construction
After being evicted from Manor Gardens, due to London Olympics 2012, the allotment holders were given new allotments with poor soil and terrible drainage.

After almost two years of meetings with the LDA, the Manor Gardening Society have had enough of broken promises and delays and on 27 April 2007 they issued Judicial Review proceedings against them. Phil Michaels, head of legal at Friends of the Earth’s Rights and Justice Centre, who represent the allotment holders said:

This is an important case about broken promises and local communities. The LDA made clear and consistent promises to the community that their allotments would be relocated so that they could stay together. They have now decided to break that promise. If the authorities are not willing to honour their promises then the Court has to step in.[9]

Allotment holders talk about their frustration with the empty talk about sustainability, their legal action against their eviction, and how they were cut out of the conversation about London Olympics 2012

The IOC refers to respect for the environment as the ‘third pillar of Olympianism’. The Sydney Bid Committee failed to note that Homebush Bay, the Olympic site, was heavily contaminated with dangerously high levels of dioxin, asbestos, heavy metals, and phthalates. The New South Wales government commissioned four scientific analyses and remediation plans for the site between 1990 and 1992 but took no action to avoid jeopardising the bid. When exposed, Olympic organisers accused environmentalists of being ‘unpatriotic and ‘un-Australian’.[10]

REGENERATION: THE REALITIES

David Higgins, Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), states:

“The Apperition of the Blue Wall” graffitti commenting on the walled off construction zone
The blue wall made large sections of East London inaccessible.

Our challenge is to successfully manage both the requirements of the Games and the long term regeneration of East London. Achieving both of these will bring fantastic opportunities for the whole of the UK.

In the past 20 years, there has been wave after wave of ‘regeneration’ in East London, each scheme spending huge amounts of public money. While claiming to be solving the same basic problems associated with poverty and ‘social exclusion’, the schemes seem never to have achieved their stated aims. Primarily, because their real aim has been to promote gentrification. During the Thatcher era, it was to be via the ‘trickle down effect’; now, gentrification is justified as being about ‘mixed-tenure’ and ‘social diversity’. But whichever prism you chose to view it through, the fact is that regeneration is simply the process of privatisation of housing and public space.

Art on the blue wall around contruction of London Olympics 2012

Lord Coe has explicitly stated his aim to ‘put London in the same bracket as the Barcelona games’. An ominous comparison. David Mackay, one of the leading architects of the Barcelona Olympics, whose firm MBM Arquitectes built the beach and the Olympic village, has said:

For Barcelona, [the Olympics] were a pretext, an excuse to improve the city.

Mackay calls the London Olympic plan a ‘missed opportunity’, a ‘thing that has arrived from out of this world and been plonked down in the Lea Valley’, anarchitectural theme city […] concentrated on iconic buildings rather than the recovery of the Valley.

Blue Wall, London Olympics 2012

London will build a new Olympic stadium, a velopark – a set of cycling arenas (in fact London mayor Ken Livingstone confirmed in February 2005 that the proposed £22 million velodrome and velo-park would be built with or without a successful Olympic bid) – and new athletics, aquatics and hockey centres. Mackay is critical of all these. The master plan, he told the Evening Standard, shows;over-construction. … It’s all concentrated according to the best desires of the International Olympic Committee, who want everything for their three week pageant. They’ve gone too far. It’s not for Londoners.

Blue wall, London Olypics 2012

Genuine regeneration benefits local residents; when ‘regeneration’ means displacement it is little more than a land grab. In Barcelona, the construction of the Poblenou Olympic Village displaced a working class neighbourhood. In Atlanta, the Olympics provided the opportunity to convert Techwood/Clark Howell public housing, the oldest in the US, into mixed use development and to displace low-income residents (mainly African American) from the downtown area. In total, about 450 public housing units were lost. The estates were situated on prime real estate, near the Georgia Institute of Technology and opposite the corporate HQ of Coca-Cola.[11]

In Beijing, it is thought that around 1.4 million people have been forcibly moved, some illegally. The number of traditional hutong neighbourhoods, made up of courtyard houses, has been reduced from 6.5 thousand to 500 as a result of clearances for the 2008 games.

LEGACY

Evidence suggests that new sports facilities have an extremely small (and perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment in a given area.[12] Stadia rarely earn anything approaching a reasonable return on investment and sports facilities attract neither tourists nor new industry. One legacy of the London Olympics might be high maintenance facilities and a huge debt. After all, Montreal took 30 years to pay off the debt it incurred building their Olympic site.

Manor Gardens allotment holders speak about the Legacy of the London Olympics 2012

According to the British Olympic Association, the London Games ‘will drive many of our youngsters to take part in sport and pursue dreams of becoming an Olympian.’ Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, is planning a Youth Olympics for 14-18 year olds in 2010.

But behind Rogge’s dream is another myth-busting admission: the Olympics is not about sport but about watching television. Since the average age of the television audience for the track and field events is over 40, it is difficult not to see the Youth Olympics primarily as an attempt to attract a more youthful sector. For all but the relatively miniscule number of people in the stadium, the Olympics is a televised event. In Australia, a very outdoor society, it was television viewing figures rather than sports activities that increased after the Sydney Olympics.

Sunday League players at Hackney Marshes discuss the effects on their community stemming from loosing their piches to the London 2012 Olympics

OLYMPIC IDEALS AND URBAN PLANNING

The planning applications for the Olympic Park were submitted by the ODA to the ODA Planning Decisions Team (PDT) on 5 February 2007. The 15-volume, 10,000 page document included plans for 2.5 km2 of new sporting venues, highways, bridges, river works, utilities, parks, and open spaces. Plans for the park show it will be very densely built.

Map of proposed Olympics 2012 construction

The application was subject to a statutory 28 days consultation period, later extended to six weeks, to allow members of the public to give their comments. There were many objections lodged, a major one being about the inadequate time for public consultation and woeful access to the application documents. The time period given to digest, consider, and prepare responses to one of Europe’s biggest ever planning applications was completely unrealistic, and further exasperated by the lack of access to documents, either online, in public libraries, or even at the ODA offices themselves. The complete set of planning documents available from the ODA in hard copy costs £500. DVDs were provided free-of-charge to representatives and those in the ODA/LDA, but were not available to local community groups.

It is difficult to see how the ODA has complied with The European Environmental Impact Assessment Directive which applies to these applications.[13] The directive provides that, the public concerned shall be given early and effective opportunities to participate in the environmental decision-making procedures referred to;[14] and that, reasonable time-frames for the different phases shall be provided, allowing sufficient time for informing the public and for the public concerned to prepare and participate effectively in environmental decision-making subject to this article.’[15]

Complaints about the absence of meaningful consultation, a lack or withholding of information, and manipulation of facts, are commonly directed at regeneration projects. As one resident says:

I was looking at an exhibition about the Olympic site and thought… Hang on! That’s where I live!

End of an era in East London, before the construction of the Olympic Stadiums

THE WINNERS

Glass towers in construction, London Olympics 2012

Laing O’Rourke, in partnership with Mace Ltd. (project management) and environmental evaluation company CH2M Hill (together called the CLM consortium), won the contract to manage construction of the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium and the Athletes’ Village. Happily, the CLM consortium has worked on five previous Olympic Games: Torino 2006, Athens 2004, Salt Lake City 2002, Sydney 2000, and Atlanta 1996.[16] The awarding of the management contract to CLM caused some controversy within both the industry and Parliament on the grounds that construction tycoon Ray O’Rourke had given a substantial donation to ‘Tony Blair’s 2012 bid team’ and substantial help in kind.[17]

Cranes in the skyline of Olympic construction 2012

The real winners are the IOC themselves, however. In the Athens games, they made a billion dollars in TV rights alone. The IOC enjoys tax-free status despite not being a charity, a religion, or a non-profit organisation. And to be on the safe side, its members enjoy diplomatic immunity.

THE LOSERS

The losers are often the most vulnerable members of society. In Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless documented the arrest of 9,000 homeless people in a policy of ‘arrests and relocation’ during the year before the Olympics. In Athens, 140 Roma from the Marousi community were forcibly evicted. The Clays Lane estate in East London, Europe’s second largest purpose built housing cooperative, was set up in the early 1980s to address the lack of housing for young single people in the area. It was initially funded by organisations including Newham Council and the University of East London. The site is large enough to house approximately 450 people. Now, the residents have been displaced under a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) issued by the London Development Agency (LDA) to make way for the development of the Olympic Village.

Clay Lane Community Centre, once a vibrant cooperative, dispersed by Olympic Park construction.

Also among the losers will be those deprived of funding by the Olympic budget. The Lottery (which, given the miniscule chance of winning, is basically a tax on the daft) will lose £112.5 million to help pay for the Olympics. This amount would otherwise have gone to ‘good causes’. The Arts Council of Great Britain recently slashed the ‘Grants for the Arts’ scheme funding by a third, from £83 million to £54 million, the first Olympic raid on the Arts Lottery fund. This money would have gone to around 5,000 arts projects.

Protesters on canal boats in East London, Olympics 2012

In March 2004, a cross-party committee of MP’s called the earmarking of money for the Olympics ‘a straightforward raid’ on Lottery funds for projects outside of London. The committee argued that the redirection of funds breached the government’s promise not to use Lottery cash to support schemes that should be funded through general taxation. It will be communities in East London and other deprived areas of the country who will suddenly find it harder to secure funding.


Protesters tour Olympic construction sight on canal boats in East London, Olympics 2012

NATIONAL MEGA PROJECTS

The postwar Olympic games are less sporting events than mega development projects. For every host city, the Olympics is an instrument for major urban restructuring on a scale that would otherwise be beyond the planners’ wildest hopes and dreams. The glow from the Olympic torch shines so bright it bleaches out the flickering flames of protest.

Construction behind the blue wall, London Olympics 2012 construction

The governments of all host nations exploit the Games for self-aggrandisement. From Berlin 1936 to Beijing 2008, regimes have used the opening ceremonies to parade the Games as the fruit and embodiment of their ideology. The 1973 games in Munich, for example, saw politics return to German sport as Cold War tensions came to a head.[18] The American-led boycott of Moscow 1980 was another recognition of the ideological instrumentalisation of the Games, as was the retaliatory boycott of Los Angeles 1984 by the Soviet Union and 13 Communist allies. In the run up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China wants to take the Olympic Torch through Taiwan and Tibet.

One can only fantasise about the cultural kitschifaction that will feature in the London opening ceremony. In the Expo 2000 UK pavilion, Battersea Power Station, an icon for degeneration, was featured heavily – so don’t expect irony.

Stratford and Westfield, London Olympics 2012

Of course, Britain’s major cultural legacy is its colonial past, currently unravelling most visibly in Iraq. Colonialism and regeneration have much in common. After all, one of the classic tricks of British colonialism was to present the land being taken over as ‘empty’. Colonialism also likes to rename. Or, as it is called today, ‘re-brand’. The idea is to re-appropriate culturally what has been taken physically. The branders can either sweep away all that existed before by calling it ‘My-Land’. Or enlist the past, one as distant, romantic, and mythical as possible, to present as natural what in fact is an irreversible lurch in the opposite direction. To cite the deputy Chairman of the Interbrand Group, Tom Blackett:

Glass towers still looking out of place during construction London Olympics, 2012

The development that will take place in preparation for the 2012 Olympics will change profoundly the character of the old East End; much of the squalor and dereliction will be swept away, and even areas developed by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority will be transformed. […] The vast site [ …] will acquire an entirely new image, and with that it needs a new name. But it has to be a name that will last, a name that will capture the glory of the 2012 Olympics and help signify the rebirth of the area. ‘Lammas Lands’ would honour the spirit of the past; it is a name that is synonymous with recreation and the public good, and carries with it a long tradition of sport in East London.

Cranes behind the blue wall, London Olympics 2012 construction

Why not call it the ‘East End of History’?

THE FUTURE

As people who deliberately kick the hornets’ nest over love to say: ‘We are where we are.’ Sure, the London Olympics will go ahead, maybe not on time or on budget, but they will at least manage to destroy all that is currently there by turning it into Europe’s biggest building site. But the Olympic circus must stop. London must be the last nomadic Olympics. After 2012, the Games should stay in one place: perhaps Athens, Los Angeles or Atlanta (who cares?). The complex, not the IOC, should have ambassadorial status and be insulated from the host country. The athletes should represent themselves, not a country. We should see the world’s diversity through faces, not flags.

Olympic Stadiums, 2012

Competitive sport at this level is too specialist for it to be participatory for a wider public and it is a myth that the centralisation of specialist facilities does anything to help wider participation in sport. It would be better for the athletes if good, fixed facilities were established instead of the wasteful and destructive cycle of makeshift and make do. The money saved could be better invested in spreading around the world accessible local sporting facilities at a community level. That would be a true Olympic legacy.

Locals protest London Olympic games 2012

But more importantly, it is clearly unacceptable for a self-elected, unaccountable body like the International Olympics Committee to decide the fate of our cities. It is not about sport but a process whereby business interests lobby and encourage democratically elected local governments to commit limitless public money and dedicate urban priorities to hosting the Games. The IOC, through the issuing of exclusive rights and franchises, and by ruthless brand protection, in turn invigorates and gives free reign to those business interests. The momentum created by the need to ‘put on a good show’ irrevocably distorts and rearranges our cities according to private concerns. In the national interest, extraordinary powers are exercised to overcome democratic structures, opposition, and planning constraints. For the East End, it is not looking good. The area will slowly get turned into a matrix of gated housing and shopping complexes, clustered in a tamed, risk-averse landscaping linked by high security jogging friendly ‘green’ pathways.

As they say in Cockney rhyming slang: then we’re ‘McDonald Ducked’.

Further Information

The best source of info and updates on the London Olympics is Games Monitor, http://gamesmonitor.org.uk

Footnotes

[1] Guardian Unlimited, 8 March 2007.

[2] The Guardian, 8 March 2007.

[3]The Independent, 08 March 2007.

[4] Sarah Glynn, ‘Playing the ethnic card – politics and ghettoisation in London’s East End’, online papers archived by the Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, 2006, http://linkme2.net/ce

[5] East End Life, 15-21 November 2004.

[6] ’2006 Multi-Storey Housing’, in: Review of Architecture, vol. 3, 2006, p. 302.

[7] A. Fraser, BBC Sport, 16 August, 2005.

[8] BBC Sport, 16 August, 2005.

[9] Manor Gardens Press Release, 28 April 2007.

[10] Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, Progressive Planning Magazine, Fall 2004.

[11] Peter Phibbs, Progressive Planning Magazine, Fall 2004.

[12] See: Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, Brookings Institution Press, 1997.

[13] Directive 85/337/EEC as amended.

[14] Ibid, 6(4).

[15] Ibid, 6(6).

[16] Contract Journal, 30 August, 2006

[17] Evening Standard, 3 September 2006, in the run up to the IOC’s decision.

[18] On the ideological mise en scène of the Munich Games in 1973, see: Uta Andrea Balbier, ‘Zu Gast bei Freunden. How the Federal Republic of Germany Learned to Take Sport Seriously’, in: Mittelweg 36, 2, 2006. English translation published by Eurozine : http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2006-06-09-balbie…

 This is an edited version of an article that appeared first on the Eurozine website entitled ‘Fish ‘n’ Freedom Fries’ : http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-05-25-saunde…

Mark Saunders is a documentary film maker living in London. His films and photography are available at http://www.spectacle.co.uk



Sign up to our Newsletter for more information about our ongoing projects.

Spectacle Homepage
Like Spectacle Documentaries on Facebook
Follow us on TwitterInstagramVimeoYoutube and Linkedin




Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

John ‘Black Power Salute’ Carlos speaks in London 21st May 2012

John Carlos, who marked his medal at the 1968 games with a raised fist ‘black power’ salute, will speak about inequality, resistance and struggle in London on Monday 21st  May 2012 at a meeting organised by members of the RMT trade union on the London Underground and sponsored by the Fire Brigades Union. The famous gesture by John Carlos and fellow medal winner Tommie Smith epitomised resistance to racism.
The world is under the spell of the Olympics 2012. In these times of global gathering around an sports event, resistance is the best Olympic spirit according to Olympic athlete Carlos. Resistance against inequality and being pro human rights.

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City John Carlos created one of the most powerful images of all times. When the American anthem started, he and Tommie Smith bowed their heads and raised their fists to represent the Black Power movement of that time. Their way of dressing and posing represented symbols for working people, black poverty, peace, and lynch mob victims. In defies of the important Olympic rule: no politics. This controversial gesture created huge debates about politics. Carlos’ athletic career was over, but his human rights spirit did not die. He represents personal sacrifice for humanity and equality and this is your chance to hear him speak in real life.

John Carlos will be joined by activist and campaigner  Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered by racists and whose long battle for justice brought the conviction of two of his killers earlier this year. Also on the platform will be Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody, and Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett.
Other speakers include Samantha Rigg-David from the Sean Rigg Campaign for Justice and Change and United Friends and Families Campaign, Sharhabeel Lone of the We are Babar Ahmad Campaign, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and Mac McKenna, an RMT activist on London Underground.

Register here for FREE! and join the FaceBook page.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

BP’s Unsustainable Olympic Sponsorship

The Counter Olympics Network (CON) held a conference on the 14th April at the Bishopsgate Institute where they discussed the problems that the 2012 Olympics has caused and planned points of action for the coming months to tackle such issues.

They were joined by international speakers Derrick Evans from the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, Bryan Parras from the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s) and Clayton Thomas Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network. Together they spoke about how their projects have been affected by previous Olympics. More specifically on the issues of corporate sponsoring, pollution, gentrification and surveillance that the Olympic Games bring to cities.

Derrick Evans

 Derrick Evans Representing the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health

BP is one of the sponsors for the London 2012 Olympics, as the ‘Official Oil and Gas Partner’ as well as sponsoring the USA Olympics Team. The corporate sponsorship of the Games by BP has angered campaigners who want to publicise the adverse effects BP contributed to the natural environment. Derrick Evans is one such campaigner who argues that BP’s involvement with the Olympics is an attempt to divert attention from its “incomparable contributions to unsustainability globally”.

He gives the example of the Deepwater Horizon Spill when BP discharged two hundred million gallons of crude oil into the gulf of Mexico in 2010 and then “applied nearly two million gallons of chemicals dispersant of Correxics not clean up, but to hide because it has the effect of breaking the oil up.” This has resulted in oil particles being consumed by the smallest life forms in the gulf and therefore infiltrating the whole food chain. Two years on the oil is still present and washes ashore in the Northern Gulf.

This has resulted in economic damage and health problems for the local people. In particular, the local fishing communities have been badly affected as two of their fishing seasons have been completely destroyed and very few of them have “received anything near the level, if anything at all, the level of compensation to compensate them for the lost income and the lost investment in their one asset, which is their boat, and their nets; and the things that they pour all their money into, to get ready for the fishing season.”

The health of the local population has deteriorated considerably since the oil spills. “Thousands, tens of thousands children and adults are exhibiting in large scale, physical symptoms: respiratory issues, skin issues, loss of short-term memory, a lot of the same issues, they don’t know each other.” And these people have not received any compensation, “they haven’t received a dime.” What is more worrying is that not a single cent of BP’s twenty billion dollar Gulf Coast Trust Fund has “pay for a single medical bill for a single person”.

The aim of the Gulf Coast Fund is to “seeks to assist and renew and empower the most vulnerable of the communities and ecosystems on the gulf coast.” The very same ones that have been affected by the BP Oil Spills.

Therefore, the idea that BP being a major sustainability sponsor is ridiculous as the environmental and human damage that BP has caused through oil spills undermines its attempts to be a “sustainabilty sponsor” of the Olympics. “BP has essentially got away with murder in the country and in a part of the country where the state officials and the government agencies that defer to them are like useless law enforcement.” Derrick Evans concludes to say that: “I want to encourage to those of you who want to shed the truth and light on this apparently multi faceted fiasco.”

Bryan Parras

 Bryan Parras Representing the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s)

Bryan Parras is a campaigner from Houston, Texas who is also campaigning against BP and their involvement with the Olympics. He described BP as a “repeat offender” as they repeatedly have accidents and problems. Five years before the Deepwater Horizon Accident BP had an explosion where 15 workers were killed. BP are “constantly cutting corners and cutting back on their safety measures.” But at the same time they are spending huge amounts of money by sponsoring the Olympics.

Bryan Parras sees the “Olympics as just another one of those opportunistic moments where capitalism sort of comes in and reigns its terror on folks.” It’s like watching little league baseball in the stadiums, where “everyone is watching their children and their friends play ball” while their cars get broken into all the time. This seems to happen wherever the Olympics go, everyone is so “focused on where the lights are all shining that we are not seeing what’s happening” to the local communities.

Clayton Thomas Muller

 Clayton Thomas Muller Representing the Indigenous Environmental Network

Clayton Thomas Muller is an activist for indigenous rights and environmental justice and lead campaigner of the Tar Sands campaign. The Indigenous Environmental Network comprises of indigenous people in the United States who have been affected by unsustainable development. BP’s involvement in the exploitation of the Tar Sands on the East coast of Canada has angered both campaigners and local indigenous communities as the extraction industry is unsustainable, causes irreversible damage to the environment and illegally encroaches on disputed indigenous lands.

It is important to understand that for us BP using the Olympics spectacle, the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet. We all know, for those of us who have done the history of the Olympics, that the Olympics is nothing more than a mechanism for the neoliberal capitalist agenda that is essentially a real estate operation to utilize and justify the expropriation of vulnerable communities.”

Vancouver Protests Image by (c) Jason Levis

In Vancouver, the Coalition Olympics Resistance Network or ORN organised and challenged corporate sponsors of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. One campaign, called ‘No Olympics on Stolen Native Lands’ brought together different groups who were fighting for Native rights and sovereignty platforms in opposition to the Olympics. The Olympics caused the gentrification in downtown Vancouver where the local communities have been pushed out to make way for villages for the athletes and tourists. This gentrification mostly affected disadvantaged groups: low income, indigenous urban-based people.

As well as the gentrification of downtown Vancouver the Olympics had caused the destruction and desecration of sensitive ecological regions in and around Vancouver. In order to build the training facilities Eagleridge Bluff, a bald Eagle nesting site and a site that is sacred to the local tribal people. One Elder of the local tribe, Harriet Nahanee organised a campaign to protect Eagle Bluff by creating a blockade to stop machines from coming in. Elder Harriet Nahanee was arrested and contracted Pneumonia in prison and died. “So she died for Olympic resistance, standing up for her rights.”

The Olympics has also caused the increased surveillance in Vancouver. Vancouver is now the second most videotaped city on the planet next to London. Personal privacy has been negotiated as the CCTV cameras are still there. “And so what the Olympics really brought in was a new regime of both militarization and criminalization of the poor, gentrification of the most vulnerable communities, the destruction of ecologically sensitive sites [and] sacred sites to local indigenous people.”

Campaigners are therefore concerned with how the Olympics “created division that used poverty and alleviation as a way to divide different social movements that were converging onto the Olympics.” Clayton Thomas Muller concludes to say that it is absurd that BP is a sustainability partner of the Olympics, “it is nothing more than greenwashing of their horrific human rights abuses and crimes of ecocide against the sacredness of the earth”.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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.

 

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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.

 

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

Marriage Ban for Olympic Visitors

Photo by © ukhomeoffice

 

There will be a marriage ban for athletes, coaches and officials who will be attending the London Olympics this summer. The UK Border Agency has announced tight restrictions that include not taking employment during the visit, not enrolling on an education course and not to “marry or form a civil partnership.” The Olympic visitors will also have to prove that they will not overstay their 6 month period. This will apply to approximately 20,000 non EU citizens who will be attending the games this summer.

 

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca

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”.

Click London Olympics for more blogs
See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

Spectacle homepage
Befriend Spectacle.Docs on Facebook
Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Identi.ca