As the opening ceremony begins, Jonathon Shafi provides a guide to the reality behind the hype of the London 2012 Olympic Games

Today sees the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games. You won’t hear a word from the media about anything except just how marvellous the occasion is, how uplifting it is for ‘our country’ and what a great time it is to be British.

It will be portrayed as a family event, there will be pictures of throngs of people eagerly waiting to enter the Olympic arena. Even the first Lady and Mitt Romney are in London. Although Romney isn’t here for the sport; he’s already had a meeting with the head of MI6.

It’s true that millions will watch the ceremony and watch the events over the next few weeks. But the real story behind how we got here is completely different to that which is depicted by the sycophantic media and press. It is one where democracy has been trampled, corporations have dominated and society has been militarised.

Presented here, is an activist’s guide to the Olympics to remind people that beyond the pageantry of the ceremony there lies an underbelly of injustice and exploitation.

#1 Budgets and costs

The financial outlay for the games has risen and risen…

  • Original budget: £2.4bn
  • By 2007 the cost had risen to: £9.3bn ( this is the figure quoted by David Cameron)
  • Games Monitor calculated cost: £13bn
  • Total approximate costs after transport upgrade: £24bn (the equivalent of nearly a quarter of the entire NHS budget for 2011/12)
  • £335, 000 spent on ‘Jurassic Stones’ structure
  • Lottery revenues worth £675 million were re-allocated from charities towards the Olympic in 2007, on the understanding the money would be returned to its originally intended recipients shortly after the end of the games, using the proceeds from the selling off of Olympic assets. But ministers have now said that the money will not be returned for at least another decade.


#2 Militarism

David Cameron said that the most important aspect of the games was ‘security.’ Security is one thing, but for London 2012, it looks more like preparation for war…

  • There will be approximately 23,700 security personnel, representing a mix of military and private forces.
  • Approximately 13,500 troops are involved in Olympic related operations, including some 7,500 who have been allocated purely for venue security. A further 3,500 have been drafted as a result of the G4S failure.
  • Of the total force, there are 3000 unpaid security volunteers.
  • Surface to air missiles have been installed on top of several flat blocks, without permission or consultation with residents.
  • 9 out of the 12 regional police forces are sending in extra officers toLondon.
  • 3 ‘elite units’ trained in SAS combat skills will form ‘Combined Firearms Response Teams’.
  • US security agents will station at several UK airports.
  • 500 FBI Agents will form extra US presence.
  • The deployment of ‘non-lethal, high technology’ weaponry such as the US manufactured Long Range Acoustic Device. This projects a piercing sound over hundreds of metres causing physical pain and has been used during protests at the G20 summit. Such weaponry is generally used in crowd control situations.
  • The RAF declared that: ‘It is likely that people will notice an increase in highly visible air activity at peak times.’
  • The Royal Navy was also part of the exercise. As their website says: ‘Royal Marines snipers from 539 Assault Squadron and 43 Commando will be on board the Navy Lynx helicopters, ready to shoot out the engines of suspicious vessels on the water while RAF Regiment snipers will do the same from the Army Lynx for light aircraft.’


#3 The Private sector

The official sponsors, a parcel of rogues…

  • Dow Chemicals of Union Carbide infamy.
  • General Electric
  • Proctor and Gamble
  • Atos
  • Coke and McDonalds
  • BP is the ‘sustainability’ sponsor.
  • RioTinto – a British-Australian multi-national mining corporation.
  • There is a ‘Brand Exclusion Zone’ in place which means that only ‘official’ Olympic brands can advertise in the area.
  • It will cost the equivalent of £7.32 for a pint of Heineken
  • 500ml bottle of Coke will cost £2.30
  • The Coke branded water (the only water available) is £1.80
  • The official Olympic clothing has been produced in sweat shop conditions. Workers are often forced to work 60 hours overtime per month. The mascot toys are produced by Chinese workers who receive 24 pence an hour.
  • The rich will use the Olympics as an opportunity to wine and dine clients and build networks. Snap up a champagne reception and four course dinner before watching the opening ceremony from the ‘Prestige Pavilion’ for a mere £7,500 per person.
  • Meanwhile the cleaners will be kept from public view and are based in portable cabins. Facilities here are a world away from the Prestige Pavilion: 25 people per toilet, and 75 per shower.


#4 Democracy

The huge cost, enormous military operation, the exploits of the rich and corporations, but you can’t protest about it…

  • Missiles installed in communities without any consultation.
  • The Counter Olympics Network who are organising a demonstration to oppose the handling of London 2012 have been told by Tower Hamlets council that there can be no public speeches.
  • Police have been given extra powers under the London Olympic Games and Games Act 2006 which according to civil rights campaigners could cover protest placards: “The regulations may apply in respect of advertising of any kind including in particular – (a) advertising of a non-commercial nature, and (b) announcements or notices of any kind.”
  • There is an Olympic ‘dispersal zone.’ This is an attempt to ‘cleanse’ the surrounding area of, anyone who doesn’t ‘fit’.


The London 2012 ‘Legacy’

Whenever someone official is asked about the cost of the Olympics they always respond by saying – yes its expensive, but think of the legacy it will leave our country.

The legacy is really a microcosm of the sort of society our rulers want to see: privatised, militarised, pro-rich and with a tightening grip around the civil liberties of workers and communities. Everyone who is fighting for an alternative to capitalism can illustrate through the games how the system can turn a global gathering of athletes into a circus of the one percent, and a deeply unethical event.

From the ISG site

Jonathon Shafi

Jonathon Shafi is organiser of the International Socialist Group (ISG) Scotland. He has played a long-standing role in anti-cuts and anti-war in Glasgow and a founder member of the Radical Independence Campaign.