The Olympic Nightmare
With the announcement that a new budget for the 2012 Olympics will soon be presented, I was reminded of a motion that came before my student’s union’s Council, calling for support for the games. The following was a speech that I never actually gave; instead I chose to ask certain questions based on the points I raise.
While most people will immediately think of the Olympics in London as something to support, I’d like to give you 5 things to think about which might balance out the positives, or even change your mind altogether.
(1) First, the Olympic Games brings with it a huge array of sponsorship, used by companies to gain positive exposure. The list of Worldwide Olympic Partners includes some old friends of mine, and none dearer than Coca-Cola, who’s pollution of Indian ground water and abuse of Columbian workers are well documented. Plus there’s usually deals with sweatshop employers like Adidas and Nike, who use the games to gloss over their appalling records.
(2) Beijing 2008 won’t be the first time the Olympics have been held in a free speech vacuum, in fact, every games is held in one. Among the things that the IOC requires from each city when they sign up for the games, is a ban on all protests throughout the city. This resulted in hundreds of citizens being arrested in Athens either for speaking out against the games, or indeed any other issue. Hosting the games will only add to the erosion of civil liberties in this country.
(3) Why did people in Athens want to protest? Well, in the rush to complete the venues, 78 construction workers were killed, but there were no prosecutions. When buildings are built to immovable deadlines, there’s no time to conduct safety checks to prevent serious accidents. Someone died building Wembley Stadium because the scaffolding wasn’t up properly, and that’s been allowed to miss its deadline: in Britain, construction is our least safe industry, and unless some drastic changes happen, accidents will happen.
(4) The Games certainly don’t mean better provision for local communities; usually its the cheapest housing which is swept away to make room for expensive flats, and with the games in London’s East End, its not going to do young first time house buyers any favours. And Hackney Marsh’s, home to some of the few public pitches in London, is being developed with expensive facilities that few locals will be able to afford.
(5) But what about the athletes themselves? Psychologists have even had to develop a new diagnosis for athletes who suffer severe, long lasting depression when the Olympic games, upon which they focused several years of their life, are over. After all the pressure to compete and the fame and glory comes the vacuum of normality.
So there you are, the Olympics is used to promote unethical products, silence free speech, it creates dangerous and potentially lethal work environments and destroys communities, and places athletes under inhuman levels of stress and leaves them ill. Is this kind of event you want to see in your capital city? I really hope not, so please vote against this motion.