Opinion: In the name of the Olympics

With the summer 2012 drawing ever closer, it is no surprise that the amount of column inches devoted to the London Olympics is increasing. What has surprised me, though, has been how much of this coverage has been of the controversies that seem to be multiplying around the Games, and just what may be done in the name of the Olympics next year.

Flatly, I am worried that the Government is importing dodgy methods of event management to Stratford and the rest of London. The security measures recently announced are especially concerning. I hope no Liberal in Britain is reassured by military presence during civic life, whatever form it comes in. If the Met don’t have the money and manpower to police this event, then we had no place bidding, and if hosting the Games is so dangerous for the public, why do it?

Then there is the talk of protest camps being removed ‘in time for the Games’. From Westminster.  I assume if there can’t be camps in Westminster, there certainly can’t be protest in Stratford. The decision has been taken at some level that the Olympics trump mere domestic politics. So are we using the excuse of looking good on an international stage to clear the streets of dissenting voices? Or, more worryingly, have we been told by the IOC and corporate sponsors that the city must look pristine, whatever the ramifications?

Of course, these are all rather wishy-washy liberal concerns about inalienable rights that won’t interest many people. What will incense ordinary Londoners will be what the press has dubbed ‘Zil lanes’, hundreds of miles of coned-off  road reserved for corporate bigwigs and IOC officials. In a city like London, this will cause traffic chaos, and for what? So VIPs can be on time for canapés before the archery. So we are left with VIP lanes, protest crackdowns and armed forces policing our capital. That is not Britain. For 3 weeks, we’re the USSR, or China. Not worth it.

To be honest, I’ve never been especially keen on London hosting the Olympics. They are so bloated and expensive, and so blatantly impact only one small area of the country for the price, that I felt we should be leaving them for other nations with more money than sense. We are spending billions on London infrastructure whilst making once-in-a-generation cuts, with investment in London already dwarfing what the rest of us get. However, we’ve got the Games and must make the best of them now, but for me that means some Lib Dem common sense on how they are to be run.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Two separate issues:

    Re legitimate protests, I completely agree with you. The Olympics should not be a pretext for getting protesters shuffled out of the way.

    But in terms of violent terrorist acts? Realistically there are too many events and too many people to ignore the risks. If I’m sitting in a stadium that is targeted by a suicide bomber, I don’t care what colour uniform takes him out.

    This is not about military intrusion into day-to-day civic life. The Olympics is the single biggest risk event going on, with a global audience and numerous foreign dignitaries. If this isn’t an occasion for military back-up being ready, I don’t know what is.

  • Old Codger Chris 5th Jan '12 - 11:07pm

    It’s a tricky balance. Remember Munich 1972. And it is only 3 weeks.

    To me the most disappointing feature of the London Olympics – so far at least – is the acceptance of sponsorship money from Dow Chemical. How about a peaceful, dignified, act of protest? Spectators might wear a discreet badge – made by a cooperative in Madhya Pradesh.

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