“There was no plebiscite. No vote. Now we have these games being shoved down our throats.” These are the shocked and stunned words of London organizer Katie Andrews, upon finding out that the Olympics will be marching into New Britannia. In a stunning upset today, the International Olympic Committee awarded London the 2012 games over heavily favored frontrunner, Paris. French President Jaques Chirac had spent over 30 million dollars on various inducements or graft – to lure the Olympics toward France. Victory seemed assured and Chirac had already lit his victory cigar. He was quoted recently as boasting, “The only contribution London has made to European agriculture is Mad Cow Disease” and mocking the quality of British cuisine. But beneath Chirac’s snippy jingoism, a larger drama was playing out on the board of the International Olympic Committee.
Former United States Olympic Committee President and Nazi Sympathizer – Avery Brundage once said famously, “The cardinal rule of the Olympics is no politics,” which is like saying the cardinal rule of boxing is no punching. The IOC is a notoriously political body that has housed so many ex-fascists meetings can look like outtakes of the Nuremberg trials.
It’s hard to believe that this year’s decision is in any way exempt from geo-political concerns. The French government has been a thorn in the side of the US’s imperial objectives, fearing they won’t get their piece of the Iraqi pie. Britain meanwhile has been only too happy to get the crust. France, which has been an Olympic bridesmaid three times in the last twenty years, now stands humiliated while the US’s favorite poodle gets the gold.
But this is not only a question of French humiliation on an international stage. This is about the kind of National Security apparatus that the Olympics require in the post 9/11 world, and which country would have been more likely accommodate what amounts to temporarily martial law. Repression of local dissent and the poor has been a feature of every Olympics, from Hitler’s cleansing of Berlin in 1936 to the 1968 slaughter of hundreds of students in Mexico City, to the 10,000 African-American homeless men illegally jailed in Atlanta. But as the 2004 Athens Olympics demonstrated, the old days of mass detentions, racial profiling, and Billy Clubs are almost quaint. Now it’s high tech hardware backed by military might. This was certainly the case in Athens. Greece actually overrode its own constitution by “allowing 50,000 paramilitary troops armed to the teeth from the US, Britain, and Israel.
The question now is whether the British left which responded so brilliantly with mass anti-war demonstrations in response to the Iraq invasion, can mount a defense against the Olympic leviathan. To do so, they will need to break with Labor Politicians who are dressing the Olympic rings in populist garb. Chief among them has been London mayor Ken Livingstone, who in another life – or alternative universe was known as “Red Ken.” Livingstone has been a major player in whipping up public support, which currently stands in London at 60%. He has been quick to point out in the words of one observer, “Anyone who is against he Olympics is against the investment and infrastructure and jobs which will help the poor. Yes, “Red Ken has turned the Olympics as a socialwelfare program. But in between cheers, Livingstone has also announced that each London Council Tax payer will have to pay £20 a year for 12 years i.e. £240, even if the Games do not make a loss, which is about as likely as seeing the Queen wear pants. The reality is that the Olympics are great for corporations, but are more likely to leave a city in financial hardship if not ruin. The Athens Olympics have put Greece in permanent hock. The 1976 Montreal Olympics are still being paid off. Already in London property prices have started to rise. If there is anything we can count on, it’s that the wealthy of Britain will make out like bandits, the poor will be squeezed, and Big Ben will likely be in the back of a Swiss pawnshop before this is all said and done.
Tony Blair said in a groveling moment to the IOC last week, “My promise to you is we will be your very best partners. The entire government are united behind this bid. … It is the nation’s bid.”
Is it? It’s now up to the people of Britain to assert a slogan of the Anti-War movement to Mr. Blair and his Olympic cronies: Not In My Name.
DAVE ZIRIN’s new book “What’s My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States” was just published by Haymarket Books. Check out his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing email@example.com.
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