Tuesday 12 June 2012

London Olympics 2012 pastoral opening ceremony: sucking at every level

UPDATE 12 July 2012 at the end of this post.

Let them snort coke. It was announced today that the centrepiece of the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony is to be a pastoral idyll. Sheep & cows will star — Marie Antoinette would be proud.

The fact that Britain was the world's first industrial nation with the first working class will take up ten minutes of the three-hour mediaeval fantasy opener — costing £27mn and directed by Danny Boyle — puts the politics into a screwed-up perspective. I wonder if Highland clearances and enclosures will feature, although I am reminded that modern clearances have already taken place with local authority housing tenants banished hundreds of miles away from their Tower Hamlets home. Not to mention the geographical exclusion zones that allow the games' organisers to bully small local businesses with the temerity to mock up their own olympic rings from flowers or hula-hoops.

How is it possible for such a major event to suck at every level? I mean at EVERY level. Even the Olympic Torch. Who cares if some of the 8,000 torch-bearers have emulated the sponsors (as above, so below) and tried to make a few bucks from their torches? It's penny ante stuff compared with the money to be made from fleecing a captive audience with overpriced food and drink (expect your water bottles to be confiscated at the border) and fewer than ten ATMs in the entire Olympic Park now that VISA have had the other twenty cash dispensers belonging to rivals ripped out.

Far more significant to the ethics of the event was the Olympic Torch route taking in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. No mention, of course, that Lewis was purchased by James Matheson (later Sir) in 1844 with his narcotics money made from selling opium to China alongside his partner William Jardine. Matheson created his own rural idyll by expelling 500 locals from Lewis in 1851 (1,771 in total), packing them off to Canada, and building Lews Castle at Stornoway for himself. So the Tower Hamlets clearances have at least one Olympic-connected precedent.

The sponsors comprise a rogues' gallery of some of the most despised corporations in the world. Food giants Coca-Cola and McDonalds — making us fat on crap (very athletic); Dow Chemicals who still haven't cleared up the mess and human misery resulting from the Union Carbide chemical explosion at Bhopal in 1984 which killed 3,000 within the first few weeks and injured half a million more; the ArcelorMittal steel giant whose queasy acquisition of Romania's national steel factories required the help of Tony Blair to whose party he'd donated £250,000; Adidas uses worker-abusing Li & Fung; perversely, ATOS, the French company chucking sick people off incapacity allowance is a big name behind the Paralympics (Jon Ronson video report here); BP whose corruption under Lord Browne and prior blowout in Azerbaijan two years before the Deepwater Horizon gush in the Gulf of Mexico is documented in Greg Palast's Vultures' Picnic.

Although the sponsors paid only two per cent of the total Olympics cost, they are receiving an estimated 38 per cent of the tickets while the actual talent — the athletes themselves — have been allocated a parsimonious two tickets for their own events. The ticket sales have been a long-running fiasco.

Then there's the militarisation of the event in the name of security. Missiles located on blocks of flats — Bow Quarter, a large apartment complex close to the Olympic stadium and Fred Wigg Tower, a 16 storey residential tower block in Walthamstow, east London — include a load that don't work in bad weather; G4S, the world's biggest security company in the world (actually an army) acted as hired guns for illegal Israeli settlers and will police the London games despite being accused of human rights infringements; HMS Ocean warship moored in the Thames; promises to shoot down hijacked planes even if they're over London's intensive urban sprawl: this is all increasingly reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's dystopian film Brazil, itself based on George Orwell's 1984.

And don't get me started on the transport nightmare expected to start a full TWO WEEKS before the start as media and athletes arrive. My home city turns into a no-go area for drivers; getting to the events; and the press are carping about stressed-out public transport drivers getting a measly £500 bonus. Cheap at twice the price.

But with several Goldman Sachs bankers — past and present — associated with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Locog) board, what do you expect?

If this turns out to be the final Olympics before everything turns to shit and World War 3 erupts for real, it will actually have been most apt and I congratulate the organisers for their cynicism and prescience. Have a nice day.

Bread and circuses but not for everyone: In this age of austerity and cuts imposed on those most in need, the government and Olympics organisers have some strange priorities. We found £11bn for the games, yet British people are struggling to survive. Interviews by Kate Belgrave.

Tax swindle at the "ethical" Olympics

The Austerity Games 23rd July, Hackney Marshes

Dave Renton on The Neo-liberal Games.

Comments on the games including the destruction of potential assets to the community such as the new bridge over the A11.

UPDATE 12 JULY 2012: It gets worser and worser, even.
G4S assured government of finding 10,000 security staff only two weeks ago, now admit failure. Army to send in 3,500 troops just back from Afghanistan.
Locals lose fight to halt ground-to-air missiles being based on their roof at Fred Wigg Tower. We note that there are none on the posh blocks lining the Thames.
Democracy and freedom of speech bite the dust as banned items at the Olympics include bottles of water and Che Guevara T-shirts.
Chips banned as MacDonalds demands right to be sole purveyor of fries at the Olympics.
Politicians trough down as MPs accept free top tickets, including from BT despite conflict of interest.
All the fat cats are larding up while poor musicians are expected to perform for free.
More exploitation.
And now a new TONY BLAIR SCARE ...
Not only back but rumoured to be showcasing his private clinic NHS bloodfest at the Olympics: Mee Healthcare (of course!


Unknown said...

The more I read about these Games, the more infuriated I become. An excellent tally of the grievances so far, and I fear the list will only grow longer.

However — one small point. I note that you condemn adidas for what looks to be a sin of association; while ample basis for a consumer boycott, it seems faint damnation compared to what one might level against the sportswear brands that would inevitably have taken their place. (But at least the medals' bas-relief of the goddess Nike would be brand-harmonised.)

I didn't think this worth mentioning, until I spotted on your website that your last media appearance was with Jeni Barnett — someone whose association I see as fairly sinful. You haven't mentioned her on this blog, so I'm curious to learn whether you approve of her stance on MMR, and, if not, where you set the limits of acceptable pragmatism (with regard both to the difficulty of finding ethical corporate sponsors, and to the need to coëxist in the media with those of dubious beliefs)?

Madam Miaow said...

Not sure what you're asking — that I take up arms over a three-year old ruck that I knew nothing about, regarding a subject of which I have only the sketchiest knowledge (not being a parent myself)?

It looks from the Wiki link you sent me that Jeni's been thoroughly taken to task over it already by people who know what they're talking about and doesn't need me to wade in. In the last year or so the evidence seems to have come down on the side of the advocates of the vaccine so I'm inclined to accept current wisdom that vaccination is a positive, Jeni ba-a-ad, or as you so witch-finderly put it, "sinful". (Good grief!)

Unknown said...

The word 'sinful' does look rather censorious out-of-context! I just thought that appearing on her programme might taint one's credibility, to at least the same degree that adidas' association with Li & Fung percolates through to taint the Olympics.

In both cases, I sympathise to an extent: the Organising Committee had to choose a vast sportswear multinational (from a field of approximately two); whereas you were unaware of her history, and you didn't have an opinion, and anyway she's done her time.

I find it hard to ignore the nuance in both cases; to stand wholly AGAINST adidas sponsoring the Olympics, and FOR somebody who has tacitly endorsed Jeni Barnett. In fact, I would call it a photo finish. [lookup: racing an Olympic sport?]

I am dead against witches, though.

Madam Miaow said...

Appearing on Jeni's show three years after some ruck I never heard of is on a par with Adidas and it's association with Li & Fung? Please allow me to make the observation that you are either a) an idiot, b) a troll, or c) a shill for one of the aforementioned companies. Thank you.