Five reasons to stand against London 2012

Saturday, 14th January 2012 at 23:45 UTC 5 comments

This post is a republishing of one of the earliest things I put on this blog, but with 2012 upon us, I thought I’d give it a quick dusting down and repost it for people to see. It first appeared in March 2007, and is based on a speech I gave a few weeks earlier. It doesn’t seem like much of the content has been given anywhere enough exposure.

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 familiar faces for human rights, social justice and environmental activists. None more so than Coca-Cola, who’s pollution of Indian ground water and abuse of Columbian workers is 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. [NB: I’m not surprised in the slightest by recent announcements – they’re normal fare for the games and Britain was never going to be an exception].

(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. [And have, though this may actually be the safest games construction, with only a handful of major incidents]

(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 football pitches in London, is being developed with expensive facilities that few locals will be able to afford.

(5) Many Countries which have hosted the games have been lumped with huge debts in return for little to no tangible outcomes – the real winners aren’t even the athletes, who’s short careers are likely to be over before long. No, the real winners will be those companies who have taken away far more in advertising outcomes (people buying their stuff and goodwill towards their brands) than they put in.

This will be achieved through trade fairs (yup, nothing to do with sports here!) and through intimidating local businesses (who have just been told they can’t accept Mastercard during the games as Visa have paid for the right to be the sole card accepted). It will happen with the money the British government is preparing to spend on giving them a platform. And it will happen through adverts that will seek to push products as somehow connected with British nationalism.

In return for which, the people of London are being asked to donate their entire city, not just for 2 weeks, but their future generation’s recreational space and affordable housing, to some of the biggest companies in the world. Yes, some British businesses might get a boost from it, but those making the sacrifices will get nothing in return.

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Entry filed under: Britain, Corporations, Human Rights, Olympics, Politics, Sports.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Sunday, 15th January 2012 at 0:15 UTC

    1) The games have sponsorship? Oh no! I mean, it’s not like every other major sporting event (heck, every other major event) has sponsorship, is it?
    As for Nike, they’ve improved a lot over the past several years. It’s not like No Logo is cutting edge anymore, you know.

    2) This isn’t Beijing, it isn’t Athens. What’s more, the purpose of the games is not to provide you with an opportunity to grandstand for X cause – it’s to play some games.

    3) Athens … bored. Everyone knows that the Athens games were pretty slipshod.

    4) Sounds like a fair point. What a shame the rest of your post leaves me totally unable to take your word for it.

    5) Big Companies – eek, scary! You say that these companies will get out more than what they put in? This is what’s called “a sound investment”. You may like to note that when you go to the corner shop, they take more money from you than they paid for the item you buy. They wouldn’t be there unless they could do that, so why is it supposed to be something sinister?

    I’m no fan of the London games – the ticketing was a farce (i.e. I didn’t get any!) and the corporate nature of the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth. However, if you can’t say anything worthwhile, don’t say anything at all. The bulk of your posts is shit-stirring paranoia, based on facts that are either out of date or else innocuous. Do you actually care about anything, or do you just like complaining?

    Reply
  • 2. MeanderingMwyndeg  |  Sunday, 15th January 2012 at 0:46 UTC

    I recently argued along similar lines (esp. the civil liberties, and the Mastercard issue) but was reminded that “it is a great opportunity for Christian Witness” – I assume this is why the Methodist Church is part of the More Than Gold scheme – how do you argue against that?

    Paul P

    Reply
    • 3. Graham Martin  |  Sunday, 15th January 2012 at 1:15 UTC

      Its a genuinely tough situation. Apart from anything else, I wouldn’t be surprised if the More Than Gold initiative isn’t treading on some very fine lines in the wording of agreements anyhow – to my mind, it could be called gaining free advertising, much as I loathe evangelism being seen as such. And yes, it does present opportunities which may be too good to miss. But I think the Church needs not to be seen as supportive of material damage being done to communities.

      Reply
  • 4. Blab  |  Sunday, 15th January 2012 at 0:51 UTC

    Greg is angry and needs to share some bile. Oops! Poor Greg!

    Reply
  • 5. Obviously Fake Name  |  Sunday, 15th January 2012 at 10:20 UTC

    I’m working on the Olympic Games, and colleagues worked on the Manchester Commonwealth Games and the Barcelona Olympics. So I can anonymously throw in some off-the-record thoughts here.

    To be a sponsor of the games costs a lot of money which would otherwise come from tax payers (both nationally and through local council tax). The Olympics organising committee are very strict about branding, to the point where all display content needs approving (and translations approved too) and there have been copyright claims over “2012”. I’d like to think that these restrictions apply equally to all partners and that the concern over the brand image means only good companies are being worked with; in reality I acknowledge that money talks, as can be demonstrated by how tickets are being allocated – mostly to large companies and partners.

    Our favourite phrase is “nothing will stop the Olympics”. This mentality means some corners may get cut, but the UK has a strong record on health and safety and work is underway to ensure that all construction workers have had at least basic health and safety training (as well as training on the brand image).

    Manchester didn’t get a lot out of the Commonwealth Games, and council tax payers had to foot some of the bill for the privilege. Barcelona however got new stadiums where outdoor concerts and cinema events happen regularly, and the most dangerous part of Barcelona became safe for tourists again (which effectively meant regaining use of the beach).

    The money being put into the Olympic Games should be seen in the same way as we see HS2. A complete waste of money, but a large cash injection into the UK economy. Except nobody is being open about this reasoning, so we’re giving all the money to foreign companies who can do things cheaper. In the case of HS2 this means Germany, and for the Olympics we’re translating documentation for contractors into many different languages.

    Reply

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