To enforce corporate control over the London 2012 Olympics, we are to have a security lock-down by 50,000 soldiers, police, and security guards – five times the number of British troops deployed in Afghanistan at the height of the war.
This is presented as a defence against terrorism. It has much more to do with what Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher liked to call ‘the enemy within’. If terrorism was the prime concern, they would not be creating the Games Lanes – essentially a freeway across London for official cars – which is the terrorist equivalent of a pirate map where X marks the spot.
The security lock-down is directed against the British people – and especially against the socially excluded of East London. It is there to defend class privilege and corporate power against democratic protest. The corporatisation of society goes hand-in-hand with its securitisation.
Some 2.2 million tickets – 25% of the total, and perhaps two-thirds or more at premier events – have been reserved for the millionaires: VIPs, Olympic officials, invited ‘guests’, and corporate sponsors. Most of the public who applied for some of the 6.6 million tickets on sale got nothing. It is estimated that half those who staked £1,000 and two-thirds of those who staked £250 got no tickets. Most poor people never had a chance. The great majority of those living around the Stratford stadium will not be going to the Games.
Meantime, the rich are getting ready to party. Corporate sponsors are doling out tickets as bonuses to staff and ‘hospitality’ to clients. Deloitte is using a large proportion of its freebie tickets ‘to reward staff achievements’. Thomas Cook is marketing exclusive ‘corporate Olympic hospitality events’. City HQs are to be turned into ‘Olympic reception centres’.
The so-called ‘Games Lanes’ will run like a band of class privilege written across the surface of the capital for the duration of the Olympics. In Ancient Greece, athletes and officials walked to the Olympics. In London 1948, they used the buses and the underground. In both cases, they went to the Games the same way spectators did. Not now: not in early 21st century London, where conspicuous displays of class privilege have become instinctive among the neoliberal elite
The outside carriageways on designated roads are to be reserved for a fleet of 4,000 BMWs that will ferry the elite from their 5-star hotels in the West End to the Olympic venues. These Lanes are to be turned into unrestricted freeways: 48 sets of traffic lights will be shut down, 50 local side roads blocked, all the pedestrian crossings closed, and all daytime parking and unloading suspended.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Londoners will find the daily routines of getting to work, delivering the kids, and doing the shopping disrupted. Millions will be affected by congestion and delays as traffic is funnelled off the Games Lanes.