Just in case you missed yesterday's news, next year will see the inauguration of the first Military and Security Olympics. They will take place over 17 days in London and other venues around the country.
That’s how it felt when defence secretary Philip Hammond announced that 7,500 military personnel would work as security guards checking visitors to Olympic venues. Another 5,000 military, including a 1,000-strong "quick reaction force", will assist the Met Police, which plans to deploy 12,000 officers. Another 1,000 military personnel will provide logistics.
The navy’s largest ship HMS Ocean will be moored at Greenwich. There will snipers in helicopters, fighter jets on standby and air defence missiles in place. In total, 41,7000 people will be involved in the so-called security operation at a cost of well over £1 billion.
With London becoming a war zone for the duration of the 2012 Olympics, you have to ask yourself, is it really worth hosting the games? Because however you look at it, the Olympics are a corporate-dominated, commercialised rip-off that has little to do with the ideals of sport.
Take the ticketing arrangements. A quarter of a million applicants failed to get a single ticket in the public ballot. Less than half the seats at showpiece events were earmarked for the public. The majority were made available to corporate sponsors like bailed out bank Lloyds and global accountancy firm Deloitte. Meanwhile, the government has spent more than £700,000 on tickets, for “dignitaries and business leaders”, MPs were told recently. The games look like being one giant hospitality event.
While we are on about sponsors, how sickening is that Dow Chemicals has been awarded the contract to “dress” the main stadium. The company owns Union Carbide, responsible for thousands of deaths from the 1984 Bhopal chemical lea. India’s Olympic body was so disgusted that it half-threatened a boycott of the London games.
Before Bhopal, Dow was infamous for the manufacture of napalm and Agent Orange, which US forces used to maim and poison millions during the Vietnam war. Other corporate sponsors include McDonald's and mining corporation Rio Tinto. Two of the six official “sustainability partners” for London 2012 are energy corporations EDF and BP.
As to the total cost, it looks likely to come in around £12 billion – about five times the promise made in 2005 when London won the bid for the 2012 Games. Most of it comes from taxpayers, with Londoners paying extra for the dubious privilege of hosting the event.
When it comes to the pledge of extra youth participation in sport, that’s gone by the board too. Sport England announced last week that the number of people playing sport aged 16-19 has fallen. Lord Moynihan, chair of the British Olympic Association, says that politicians have failed to honour pledges made after winning the games.
Pledges by the Labour government to deliver an average of five hours' sport a week in schools had not been met, and now further cuts were taking place. "At the moment I don't see the policies being put in place that will build on the inspiration of the games for young people and that will change their lives for a lasting sports legacy," he said.
Moynihan, a former Tory sports minister, told the Observer: "We have got tens of thousands of really gifted, talented young sports stars whose talent is never identified. There is no ladder for them to climb and there is no structure for them to get to the top of.”
What about the Olympic Village and the housing “legacy”? Most of the homes have been bought by a partnership including the Qatari royal family's company and will be private housing after the games. Other homes will be sold off to “key workers”. Social housing? Forget it.
With ordinary tourists planning to stay away from London in droves, alarmed by soaring hotel prices, massive traffic jams and heavy-handed security, these are hardly going to be the fun games which the capital’s diverse population can enjoy. The only hope is that the eurozone countries on the end of prime minister Cameron’s veto last week retaliate with a boycott all of their own!