Sites of Interest
(courtesy Empire Burlesque)
A Tiny Revolution
William Blum/Killing Hope
The Distant Ocean
Welcome to the Sideshow
Mark Crispin Miller
Crooks and Liars
Black Agenda Report
The Raw Story
Iraq Vets Against the War
Blues and Dreams
Bright Terrible Spirit
With surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of
residential apartment blocks, Royal Navy battleships on alert and Royal
Air Force fighter jets and helicopters patrolling the skies over
Britain’s capital there is a foreboding sense of a nation at war instead
of an occasion of internationalist fraternity that the ancient Games
are supposed to embody.
The Games begin in just under two weeks. The latest development is the announcement by Britain’s Ministry of Defence that 3,500 extra troops are to be deployed to ensure security at the 30 venues hosting sporting events. This is in addition to the 13,500 military personnel already assigned to protect members of the public and sports teams from the risk of terrorist attack.
The total troop deployment in and around London represents 7,000 more personnel than is currently on British operations in Afghanistan.
This figure is in addition to the 10,000 extra police officers and a division of 10,000 private security guards. It was the disclosure that G4S, the private security firm with the Olympics contract, could not fulfill its manpower requirements to cover the Games that prompted the latest enlisting of additional soldiers.
The militarization of the Olympics was conveyed inadvertently by a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence when he said: “Many of the people whom the public will meet at the point of entry to any Olympic event will now be a serving member of the armed forces.”
Boris Johnson, the maverick Mayor of London, said in a statement: “The mayor takes the issue of Olympics security extremely seriously, and having the finest and bravest service men and woman in the world at our disposal during the Games should be a source of great comfort.”
The Royal Navy’s largest battleship, HMS Ocean, will
be moored on the Thames at Greenwich, providing a logistical command
centre during the event. It will also provide a base for Lynx
helicopters manned with snipers to make round-the-clock sorties over the
Royal Marines on patrol boats and inflatable dinghies are also assigned on the iconic river that snakes its way through London’s historic landmarks.
The RAF will also be patrolling the skies over the capital with Puma helicopters and Typhoon fighter jets operating out of RAF Northolt in West London and Ilford in East London.
But the most controversial deployment has been the
installation of surface-to-air missile batteries in residential
apartment blocks in the impoverished, rundown East End of London.
Residents recently lost a court battle to prevent the Rapier SAM
batteries being installed.
The mainly working-class local communities objected to the militarization of their neighbourhoods. They also questioned the safety for residents in the event of the weapons being used to bring down aircraft suspected of carrying out terror attacks. One local man said: “What’s going to happen if our houses get showered with debris?”
The military invasion of poor neighbourhoods for the four-week duration of Olympics has served to rankle already ill feeling towards the colossal spectacle. East London areas such as Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest lie in the shadow of some of the purpose-built venues. The staging of the Olympics, including the massive security operation, is reckoned to come to a total cost between $20 and $40 billion, much of which will be footed by the taxpayer. This is at time of swingeing austerity cuts by the British government amounting to a total of $140 billion axed from public spending.
Socially deprived communities in London’s East End have borne the brunt of government cutbacks required to balance Treasury books thrown into disarray from lavishing billions of dollars on bailing out corrupt private banks.
With unemployment and deprivation being felt keenly in areas like London’s East End, not many of the residents there will be able to afford the admission to the Olympics, with tickets fetching as much as $3,000.
Given the juxtaposition of this glitzy event and its garish corporate sponsorship alongside the sprawling grim poverty for many Londoners – amid the backdrop of full-scale military operations and surveillance – there is an eerie sense of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent