Five reasons to stand against London 2012
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.