River Cities’ Reader
• Vol. 19 No. 810 • August 2 - 15, 2012
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
by John W. Whitehead firstname.lastname@example.org
London 2012 Olympics: The Staging Ground for the Coming Police State?
s London prepares to throw the world a $14-billion party, itseems fair to ask the question:What does it get out of the bargain?” asksthe
Christian Science Monitor
in a recentstory on the 2012 Summer Olympics. “SaltLake got to show that its Mormon com-munity was open to the world,” observes journalist Mark Sappenfield. “Turin got toshow that it was not the Detroit of Europe.China got to give the world a glimpse of thesuperpower-to-be. And Vancouver got toshow the world that Canadians are not, infact, Americans.”And what is London showing theworld? Sappenfield suggests that Londonis showing off its new ultramodern andefficient infrastructure, but if the security for the 2012 Olympics is anything to go by,it would seem that London is really showingthe world how easy it is to make the moveto a police state without much oppositionfrom the populace.It’s what the Romans used to refer to as“bread and circuses” – the idea that the key to controlling the masses is satiating theircarnal appetites and entertaining them withmindless distraction. Thus, while the worldloses itself in the pomp and circumstance of a thoroughly British Olympics – completewith Sir Paul McCartney rocking theopening ceremony, celebrity sightingsgalore, and a fair share of athletic feats andinspirational victories to keep us glued toour TV sets – a more sinister drama will beunfolding.Welcome to the 2012 Summer Olympics,the staging ground for the coming policestate.Under cover of the glitz and glamorof these time-honored games, a chillingmilitary operation is underway,masterminded by a merger of the corporate,military, and security industrial complexesand staffed by thousands of civilian policeand British military and security personnel,as well as FBI, CIA, and TSA agents andprivate security contractors. Appropriately enough, this year’s Olympic mascot,Wenlock – a strange, futuristic blob withan all-seeing eye to “record everything”in the games – is being sold in Olympicstores dressed in a policeman’s uniform. “Asa metaphor for the London Olympics, itcould hardly be more stark,” writes StephenGraham for the
. “For 10.25pounds, you, too, can own the ultimatesymbol of the games: a member of by farthe biggest and most expensive security operation in recent British history packagedas tourist commodity.”In addition to the usual tourist sightssuch as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Big Ben, visitors to Londonmay find themselves goggling at themilitary aircraft carrier floating in theThames; the Typhoon fighter jets taking tothe skies, ready to shoot down unauthorizedaircraft; aerial drones hovering overheadto track residents and tourists; snipersperched in helicopters; an 11-mile-long,5,000-volt electric stun fence surroundingOlympic Park; and 55 dog teams patrollingthe perimeter. Several locations throughoutLondon will also feature surface-to-airmissiles, including some residential areas inEast London that will have them perchedon top of apartment buildings. All theseand more are supposedly part of the new apparatus required to maintain security inan age of terror.Roughly 13,000 private security guardsprovided by G4S, the world’s second-largestprivate employer, will be patrolling thestreets of London under a $439-millioncontract with the British government. Dueto some last-minute trouble recruiting andtraining guards, 3,500 additional Britishmilitary troops will be called in, making atotal of 17,000 troops scheduled to policethe Olympics.More than 500 American federal agents,trained in the methods of security theatre,will be on hand to assist Britain’s security forces. In fact, the CIA, State Department,and FBI have all been working closely with British authorities for well over a yearin preparation for the Olympic games.TSA agents – infamous for, among otherthings, stealing large sums of money from passengers’ luggage, patting downchildren and the elderly and handicapped,and breaking diabetic passengers’ insulinpumps – will also be on loan to the Britishto assist with airport-passenger screeningduring the games, including fast-track fingerprinting for Olympic athletes.There’s even a security patrol tasked withmaking sure that local businesses observethe government ban on symbols and wordsrelating to the Olympics lest they causeeconomic harm to the “official” corporatesponsors, including Adidas, McDonald’s,Coca-Cola, and BP. These purple-cappedgovernment officials are authorized toenter businesses to look for violations andcan impose fines up to 20,000 pounds($31,000). Included on the banned listare such words as “games,” “2012,” “gold,”“silver,” “bronze,” “summer,” “sponsors,”and “London.” As
reports, “So far aLondon café has been forced to removefive offending bagels from its windows, ashas a butcher who had the temerity to dothe same with sausage links. Spectatorshave been warned that to risk wearing agarment adorned with the Pepsi logo may result in being banished from game venuesand that nobody but McDonald’s can sellFrench fries at any Olympic concessionstand. An old lady got tagged for sewingthe five rings onto a mini doll sweater.”Unwilling to risk anything takingthe shine off London’s Olympic games,government officials have also clampeddown on protesters and journalists, twogroups whose existence largely depends ontheir ability to exercise their free-speechrights, as well as anyone voicing an opinionabout the games publicly. The Britishpolice have even gone so far as to bancertain graffiti artists from “creating any graffiti (even sanctioned work) affiliatedwith the Olympics, traveling within amile of any Olympic venue, associat[ing]with any individual also on bail, or usingany train, subway, or other rail service forleisure purposes.”And then there’s the surveillance.With one government-operated outdoorsurveillance camera for every 14 citizensin the UK, Great Britain is already widely recognized as a surveillance society.However, in preparation for the Olympics,London has also been “wired up witha new range of scanners, biometric IDcards, number-plate and facial-recognitionCCTV systems, disease-trackingsystems, new police control centers, andcheckpoints. These will intensify the senseof lockdown in a city which is already abyword across the world for remarkably intensive surveillance,” reports Graham.Even neighborhoods beyond the Olympicpark have been embedded with biometricscanners and surveillance cameras withautomatic facial- and behavior-recognitiontechnologies.Keep in mind that these surveillancetools will remain in place long afterthe Olympic torch moves on. AsGraham points out: “Many suchsystems, deliberately installed to exploitunparalleled security budgets and relatively little scrutiny or protest, have beendesigned to linger long after the athletesand VIPs have left. Already, the Dorsetpolice are proudly boasting that their new number-plate recognition cameras, builtfor sailing events, are allowing them tocatch criminals more effectively.”In Athens, the $300-million “super-panopticon” CCTV and informationsystem built for the games followingintense U.S. pressure remained afterthe event, along with the disused sportsfacilities. In fact, the system has been usedby Greek police trying in vain to controlthe mass uprisings responding to thecrash and savage austerity measures in thecountry.Unfortunately for the people of Londonand beyond, the UK’s willingness to hostthe 2012 Summer Olympics has turned thisevent meant to foster solidarity, teamwork,and nationalism into a $14-billion exercisein militarism, corporatism, surveillance,and oppression. As Graham concludes:“Looking at these various points togethershows one thing: Contemporary Olympicsare society on steroids. They exaggeratewider trends. Far removed from theirnotional or founding ideals, these eventsdramatically embody changes in thewider world: fast-increasing inequality,growing corporate power, the rise of thehomeland-security complex, and the shifttoward much more authoritarian styles of governance utterly obsessed by the globalgaze and prestige of media spectacles.”
Constitutional attorney and author John W.Whitehead is founder and president of TheRutherford Institute (Rutherford.org). Hisnew book
The Freedom Wars
is available at Amazon.com.
There’s even a security patrol tasked withmaking sure that local businesses observe the government ban on symbols and words relating to the Olympics lest they cause economic harmto the “official” corporate sponsors, including Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and BP.