Monday, 23 April 2012

"Lord" Coe and the Olympic dictators

Compared to the monstrosity of the Iraq War, it feels a little bathetic to have the response of "not in my name" every time someone from the London Olympics pops up to exhort people to sacrifice to support their combination of product placement, disruption and nationalist farrago.

A typical example of this was reported on the BBC this morning:

Organising committee chair Sebastian Coe said: "London and the UK is gearing up to welcome the world this summer when 15,000 athletes, 7,000 technical officials, thousands of media and millions of spectators will be travelling on our transport networks.

"As the success of the Games depends on all of us doing our bit to keep London and the UK moving, I'd like to urge everyone to plan now."

This is a prime example of attempts to restrict freedom of movement in favour of a small minority of people who have a) secured tickets for the events and b) are not able to take advantage of the skewering of Central London's transport network during the two months of disruption (road space cleared for official limousines through the exclusion of emergency service vehicles, closure of bus lanes, roads and pedestrian crossings are all features of this allegedly-popular event).

London's transport system will obviously find it hard to cope, but the logic would be to make the subsidised sports types second-class citizens - they already will be paying less than residents and workers for their travel and should therefore stand back to allow the city to function for those who are not actually self-lobotomising in the name of corporate sport.  However because it involves "sport", rather than collective solidarity, the Tories are happy enough to collude with the fiction that in some way the success of the Olympics is likely to prove a temporary or permanent boost for the British economy.

Disruption to transport isn't the half of it.  Last month this story appeared in the "Guardian" reflecting the incredible powers of repression that exist around this supposed celebration:

This is a scandal.  It demonstrates a huge number of lies and deceptions that have been perpetrated upon the UK as part of this absurd vanity project.  The long-term implications of the blurring of the boundaries between the legitimate actions of the state to protect its citizens and the promotion of commercial, sectarian interests are frightening, quite apart from the lies and evasions around the true costs of such an event to a battered economy.

To provide more powers to the private security industry, to de-legitimise protest to avoid the possibility of offending corporate sponsors, to create the assumption that any dissent within the blighted city is a threat to the Olympics themselves and to entrench a system of security and surveillance that would be the envy of the North Koreans is not part of any "celebration of sport", nor of a genuinely free society.  Allowing the same corporate sponsors to dictate what images can be seen in the public realm, as well as within the venues themselves, is a symbolic two-fingered salute to the idea that citizens have any rights and powers over multi-national companies.

Not that this worries the air-headed denizens of the sporting establishment, for whom the smug and oleaginous Coe is the principal spokesperson, as this is all part of "sport".  I hold no brief against people who actually enjoy watching it - indeed it would be hypocritical given my own fixation with a sport not deemed worthy of the Olympics in the form of cricket - but the way in which it is used to justify what is the most systematic assault yet on the liberties of the citizen is enough to get me into a state of choleric venom.

The implications of the security arrangements for the Olympics are hideous - quite apart from the direct impact in disrupted lives and wasted time they pose fundamental questions both about the nature of society and the honesty of our politicians.  While the rest of the country is enduring the cuts necessary to rebalance government finances, the security budget has over-run by at least four times for the Olympics - and the wider community will have to fund it.  The "legacy" of housing and regeneration that has been promised is largely in the hands of speculative parasites, while the displacement of people and communities, excellently portrayed in Iain Sinclair's recent "Ghost Milk" is on the level of at least idiotic planning if not social cleansing.

We are in the odd situation where, with three months to go, people are not really sighted on the whole panoply of repression that is deemed necessary to avoid disruption to an exclusive, corporatist event.  As many of the measures would be deemed "passive" and non-intrusive to anyone who is going about their prescribed business within the munificent boundaries laid down by the state and the Olympic bureaucrats, they will only kick in if there is protest, or if there is disruption that threatens the image of the Games.  Building more of the Big Brother state is seen as a necessary component of this, which is a tragedy and an example of the rank hypocrisy that we are all supposed to accept and take on the chin.

"Sport" is not the end of all this - it is a regrettable necessity to have some events that justify product placement, state repression and social engineering.  This is a colossal vanity project that has the potential to damage London and the UK immeasurably, both in terms of quality of life and the retardation of economic and environmental development.  However Coe and his idiot cronies labour under the delusion that they are able to instruct, dictate and disrupt - without any electoral or legal mandate - and to spend our money on their illusions.

The Olympics have always had a propaganda value beyond their intrinsic worth - witness Coe's own "triumph" in Moscow in 1980 against a depleted range of competition - and the aim is not to promote sport but to have a contest to see which nation can waste more of its resources in a pissing-up-the-wall contest.  I'm beginning to wonder whether there are more parallels between London 2012 and Berlin 1936, rather than the economic meltdown the Athens games assisted in precipitating, as the main aim appears to be purely propagandist and boastful.

My fervent hope is that the Olympics themselves pass off with minimum criminality on the part of their organisers, and that there are no disruptions beyond those which can be expected from the weather and the transport system.  However, it does not take any significant binary logic to work out that the systems they have put in place may actually encourage more of the "threats" that they have got worked up about.

Coe does not make a convicing dictator, more Charlie Chaplin than Hitler, but there is a sinister, conformist undertone to all their pronouncements.  Passive resistance will be the order of the day, along with, as far as possible, an economic and cultural boycott of a repressive, disruptive farrago.

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