Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Olympics, London & the Militarised State

TODAY we learn that G4S can't supply 10,000 security staff for the Olympics as planned, and that the Home Secretary, Theresa May has had to plead with the Ministry of Defence to let her have thousands more service personnel to do the job as security-men at the London 2012 Games.  I wonder what the squaddies are saying about that?

Ironically, only last Friday in the Herald Tribune, Jules Boykoff and Alan Tomlinson were writing about the International Olympic Committee (ICO):  'Most worrisome, perhaps, is that the I.C.O. creates perverse incentives for security officials in host cities to overspend and militarize public space.  The I.C.O. tends to look kindly on bids that assure security, and host cities too often use the Games as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stock police warehouses with the best weapons money can buy.'

Mr. Boykoff and Mr. Tomlinson further say visitors to London 'would be forgiven for thinking they had dropped in on a military convention.'  They write:  'Helicopters, fighter jets and bomb-disposal units will be at the ready.'  Before this recent mishap by G4S about 13,500 British military personnel were expected to be on patrol, that would be 4,000 more than currently serving in Afghanistan.  Now, it seems, that figure will have to be revised upwards.

Admittedly, the Government are right to be concerned to protect our capital city and the Games, but as Boykoff and Tomlinson say 'there is such a thing as excess - and surveillance and weaponry are not a panacea.'  Symbolically, having London presenting an image of a militarised state is is hardly conducive to the Olympic ideals of peace and understanding.  These critics suggest that today it is the growing size of the Games that is the problem - 'Gigantism' - and argue that competitions 'drenched in privilege, like the equestrian events, should be ditched' as should 'pseudo-historuical events like Greco-Roman wrestling' and events with high start-up costs should be changed for ones needing less resources like tug-on-war and running events 'like trail running and cross-country'.


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