I used to love the Olympic Games. Me and my dad, we loved watching the events together and cheering on the Brits . But the more I learn about the truth behind the glossy Olympic veneer, the more disillusioned I become.
We’re told that the Games leave a great legacy for the host country – that the economy will greatly benefit, that tourism will soar, that employment, investment and regeneration will thrive. They convince us that the Games will encourage the whole nation to get active and that suddenly everyone will be transformed into healthy, keep-fit fanatics. They sell us the idea of superb sporting facilities – swimming pools, tennis courts and such-like that will be available for everyone to utilise post-Olympic games.
Well there is another line of thinking which argues that the golden Olympic legacies are mostly mythical, that there is a more sinister side to the Olympic movement and that beyond the hype, real lives are detrimentally and irreversibly affected.
Well let’s take a wee look:
Planning displacement/Forced evictions. How many people do you think were displaced in Beijing to make way for the games? This report says it’s 1.5 million. And this website goes into more detail.
Atlanta 96- what went on there? Amongst other stuff, housing rights violations and – get this – the criminalisation of the poor and the homeless, many of whom were detained without trial for the duration of the games so they wouldn’t be an embarrassment.
London 2012 – how many evictions have taken place so far in London alone due to the building works? What about the allotments that have been forecably taken to make way for the games? The businesses that have lost their sites. And the social housing estate, Clays Lane, that became subject to a compulsory purchase order, against the wishes of the tenants, to build the athlete’s village.
Ethics. London 2012 is so ethical that it’s own ethics chief resigned because of its connections, via Dow Chemicals, with the 1984 Bhopal disaster that killed thousands of its citizens. When you consider just who the leading corporate sponsors are it’s hard not to be cynical . . . BP, the aforementioned Dow Chemicals, Rio Tinto . . . a trio of polluting multinationals with dire environmental records as official sponsors of the “greenest games ever”? Give me a break!
Democratic rights. Be in no doubt, preemptive arrests are very much on the cards at these London games for peaceful protesters. Just wait and watch our PM trample on our civil liberties, empowering the police to make sweeping arrests before objectors even begin their peaceful protests at the games. You’ll have to look hard though because it won’t be widely reported.
The Food. McDonald’s (hiss, spit), official partner of the games, have pledged to use only British chickens but what about the beef and the fish? And in any case, come on! McDonald’s! The unhealthiest food in the world being ‘officially’ supplied at a major, global sports event! Someone had a sarcastic sense of humour there.
The environmental impact. The London games are supposed to be the greenest ever. UK officialdom wants the London games to be an environmental showcase and wants us to believe that the environment won’t be touched at all by these games but nobody can tell me that there has been no major environmental impact. It’s not possible. I can’t even be bothered going into detail. I’ve gone on enough and I’d be stating the bleeding obvious anyway.
To sum up, basically, they’ve sold us a tale of turning the nation into health and fitness fanatics but does anyone really believe that people will get off their backsides en masse and get jogging because they been so inspired by nine-minute sprinters or record-holding marathon runners? No, we will all watch the games from the comfort of our lounges (or if we’re lucky, from a seat in the stadium) and then we’ll forget about it! And I’m sure all those super-duper sports facilities that they say the citizens will inherit really will be fantastic – if you can afford the membership fees!
Sure, there will be economic benefits but they will be short-term and there’s little evidence to say that these benefits actually reach those most in need and much historical evidence to say that existing entrepreneurial types and wealthy stakeholders usually reap the most of the rewards. They say that tourism will benefit and yes, if the games were to be held in Backendofnowhere I’m sure that many ordinary citizens would greatly benefit from increased tourism (or perhaps not depending on your view but you get the point). But the games are always held in major cities, eg, London. Tourism is London’s biggest industry and it’s booming, so where will the added value come from? It’s so small, it’s more likely to cause greater pressure and utter turmoil.
The misrepresentation, the myths, the corporate spin, the total greenwash. Folks, the social and environmental impacts of the games are considerable. The Olympic legacy is not all rosy but is in fact, pretty much all fallacy. It certainly does not result in all-round sustainable urban facelifts or jobs for life or booming economies.
So, whose boycotting the games then?