Militarizing the Olympics
We’ve been universally very much impressed with everything we’ve seen. As far as I can see they [London’s police] have done an excellent job preparing all their forces.
– Commissioner Raymond Kelly, NY Police Chief, May 23, 2012.
Let this Orwellian madness commence. As the Olympics approaches, London is facing the spectacle not merely of travelling chaos in the city’s Tube system but that of militarist mania. Weapons and heavily armed personnel are being placed across the city in anticipation of potential attacks from any number of unspecified candidates. In early April, Jules Boykoff argued that security officials have been “exploiting the Olympics as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to multiply and militarise their weapons stocks, laminating another layer on to the surveillance state” (Guardian, Apr 4).
As he rightly points out, the Olympic Charter itself prohibits any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” which hardly prevents a security state from demonstrating its pathological tendencies.
Indeed, there is much to suggest that London is leaving Beijing behind in terms of its use of dastardly devices in monitoring its populace, something already being accomplished well with an extensive network of CCTV cameras. Numbers of those involved in the security business have ballooned – 12,500 police officers with 13,500 soldiers are participating in the Olympic exercise (Afghan deployments, it seems, can sod off), though there is much to suggest that these numbers veer towards the conservative.
The FBI is adding its complement, having expressed concerns previously that London was proving lax in providing sufficient security. In November, the situation sparked a row which led to reports that 500 FBI employees and a thousand officials from the US were being deployed to the games. Commissioner Raymond Kelly, New York’s Police Chief, however, is impressed, which should worry residents and Olympic visitors alike. “It seems they really have a handle on just about any contingency that might take place” (Daily Mail, May 23). As for the FBI, they were merely there in a “supportive” role.
Drone experiments will also be conducted – all in the name of peaceful purposes, of course. Naturally, the tried and true British way is to legalise state intrusions in order to soften them for a law minded society. “It is understood,” wrote Jeremy Taylor for The Independent (Nov 25, 2011), “that the Metropolitan Police has taken part in discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority over whether they can use small radio controlled devices in heavily built-up areas, as part of efforts to increase their number of ‘eyes in the sky’.”
The other angle taken by sly and paranoid officials is that unmanned vehicles might well be used by a terrorist organization to disperse a lethal agent. The rationale here is that everyone is joining the drone game. Lieutenant Colonel Brian Fahy went so far as to claim that unmanned drones controlled by fiendish terrorists would be repositories of poison (Daily Mail, May 5). “An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can be put in a backpack. They come in all sorts of sizes and it’s feasible they could be filled with something noxious and flown by remote-control.” This is a touch rich coming from an army that has begun an expanded program to assemble and deploy Reaper Drones in Afghanistan.
Surface-to-air missiles have also found their ugly way to the tops of residential blocks – an encouragement for violence if ever there was one. The deployment was legally challenged by residents of the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, but failed to convince the judge in question that such militarized madness might actually incite a terrorist attack.
Marc Willers, the lawyer representing the residents, called the deployment in peace time “unprecedented”. David Forsdick, representing the Defense Secretary and the Ministry of Defense, was admirably honest in his contempt for the residents’ fears – there was no statutory duty to consult them nor should they have any expectations of being consulted when it came to matters of national security (The Standard, Jul 10).
Ultimately, the man behind the mission is Chris Allison, the national Olympic security coordinator. The security company being employed is the error prone G4S. Allison’s fear lies less in terrorism per se than that grand old British habit of rioting. Terrorism is the orthodox target – controlling the merry instincts of a disgruntled population is far more the likely object.
Even now, despite London’s ringed defenses, there are suggestions that this is a farce before it starts. A whistleblower “Lee Hazledean” (better known as the director Ben Fellows), who apparently infiltrated the G4S company, claims that the security layering in London is a load of good, well concealed bollocks. The most obvious fact was that Fellows could be admitted as an employee to begin with. The personnel are ill-trained and specialists in incompetence (nothing new there). According to Fellows, they aren’t averse to the occasional drug deal.
A man’s home is, according to British legal lore, his castle. When it comes to placing surface-to-air missile on flat tenements in the name of protecting a discredited joke such as the Olympics, the old rule is conveniently abrogated. With such powers as the London Olympics Games Act, a monster created in 2006, the infliction of violence is being given a green light.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org