[News] "Drones, Missiles, and Gunships, Oh My!" Welcome to the 2012 London Olympics

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Wed May 16 10:49:41 EDT 2012


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Zirin » "Drones, Missiles, and Gunships, Oh My!" 
Welcome to the 2012 London Olympics


"Drones, Missiles, and Gunships, Oh My!" Welcome to the 2012 London Olympics

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/davezirin>Dave Zirin


As many as 48,000 security forces. 13,500 troops. 
Surface to air missiles stationed on top of 
residential apartment buildings. A sonic weapon 
that disperses crowds by creating "head splitting 
pain." Unmanned drones peering down from the 
skies. A safe-zone, cordoned off by an 11 mile, 
electrified fence, ringed with trained agents and 55 teams of attack dogs.

One would be forgiven for thinking that these 
were the counter-insurgency tactics used by U.S. 
army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, or perhaps 
the military methods taught to third world 
despots at the School of the Americas in Ft. 
Benning Georgia. But instead of being used in a 
war zone or the theater of occupation, they in 
fact make up the very visible security apparatus 
in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London, which has the most street cameras per 
capita of any city on earth, has for the last 
seven years since the terror attacks of 7/7/05, 
been a city whose political leaders would spare 
no expense to monitor its own citizens. But the 
Olympic operation goes above and beyond anything 
we’ve ever seen when a Western democracy hosts 
the games. Not even China in 2008 used drone 
planes or ringed the proceedings with a massive, 
high-voltage fence. But here is London, preparing 
a counter insurgency, and parking an aircraft 
carrier right in the Thames. Here is London 
adding “scanners, biometric ID cards, 
number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, 
disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints.”

Stephen Graham at the Guardian refers to the 
entire state of affairs as “Lockdown London” as 
well as “the UK's biggest mobilisation of 
military and security forces since the second 
world war.” He is not exaggerating in the 
slightest. The number of troops will exceed the 
forces the UK has had in Afghanistan.

It’s not just the costs or the incredible 
invasion into people’s privacy. It’s the powers 
being given to police under the 2006 “London 
Olympic Games Act” which empowers not only the 
army and police, but also private security forces 
to deal with “security issues” using physical 
force. These “security issues” have been broadly 
defined to include everything from “terrorism” to 
peaceful protesters, to labor unions, to people 
selling boot-leg Olympic products on the streets, 
to taking down any corporate presence that 
doesn’t have the Olympic seal of approval. To 
help them with the last part, there will be 
“brand protection teams” set loose around the 
city. These “teams” will also operate inside 
Olympic venues to make sure no one “wears clothes 
or accessories with commercial mes­sages other 
than the manufacturers’ who are official sponsors.

The security operation also means the kind of 
street harassment of working class youth that 
will sound familiar here in the United States. As 
the Guardian reported, “Officers have powers to 
move on anyone considered to be engaged in 
antisocial behaviour, whether they are hanging 
around the train station, begging, soliciting, 
loitering in hoodies or deemed in any way to be causing a nuisance.”

There is no reason that the Olympics have to be 
this way. There is no reason that an 
international celebration of sports – 
particularly sports more diverse than our typical 
high-carb diet of football, baseball, basketball, 
and more football – can’t take place without 
drones and aircraft carriers. There is no reason 
athletes from across the globe can’t join 
together and showcase their physical potential.

But the Olympics aren’t about sport any more than 
the Iraq War was about democracy. The Olympics 
are not about athletes. And they’re definitely 
not about bringing together “the community of 
Nations.” They are a neoliberal Trojan Horse 
aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties.

Not to shock anyone, but there are no signs that 
any of the security apparatus will be dismantled 
once the Olympics are over. Local police forces 
have just been given an inordinate number of new 
toys and the boxes have been opened, the receipts tossed away.

In many ways, this is what the games have always 
been. From Hitler’s Berlin Olympics in 1936, to 
the slaughter of students in 1968 in Mexico City, 
to the Gang Sweeps in Los Angeles in 1984, to 
Beijing's mass displacement of citizens in 2008, 
the “crackdown” has always been a part of the 
Olympic games. But in the post 9/11 world, the 
stakes are even higher to expose this for what it 
is. The Olympics have become the spoonful of 
sugar to help the medicine go down, and the 
medicine is that our elected leaders have seen the enemy, and it is all of us.

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