Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Olympic Rant #1

The HMS Ocean heads towards Greenwich for a pre-Oympics security exercise (PA photo)
William Oddie has a very provocative piece on the Olympics in which he says:
The massive military involvement in the security for the Games is surely not merely disproportionate, but actually demented. The amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean has arrived at Greenwich, where she will remain until after the end of the Paralympics, acting as a helicopter landing platform and “logistics hub”.

A Navy spokesman said: “A mix of Royal Navy and Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters will be ready at short notice to launch from the ship’s flight deck to support the police by providing airborne and maritime security for the Games.” As well as HMS Ocean, RAF Typhoon jets will be stationed at RAF Northolt and Puma helicopters at a Territorial Army centre in Ilford.

Even before the extra 3,000 or so servicemen who have now to be deployed to make up for the G4S shambles, a total of 17,000 servicemen and women were involved in providing security for the Olympics, including 11,800 soldiers, 2,600 sailors and marines, and 2,600 airmen.

The whole thing is surely simply insane: all this military nonsense (costing how many billions? Does anybody really know?) is to give the illusion of security to (and here come all the personal prejudices I had sworn to keep to myself) a large number of self-confident and mostly illiterate young people running, leaping and otherwise cavorting around the Olympic Park and elsewhere (when, that is, they are not reducing London traffic to a state of gridlock). I admit, as I say, that this perception is entirely my own business, that my total inability to understand why so many people think the Olympic Games are actually important and worthwhile is my personal problem, and I do not expect anyone to endorse these feelings in any way.
I share Oddie's curmudgeonliness about the Olympics, there is something distasteful about our military not only picking up rubbish after Olympic tourists but also policing them. Traffic lanes reserved for the elite of Olympic officials speeding in comfort whilst the rest of humanity struggles with a depleted bus service or sweats together underground on the tube, smacks of some distasteful dystopia. Making inaccessible great swathes of our Capital city to ordinary mortals by a stroke of an executive pen sets precedents that have been unknown in England for almost a thousand years.
And for what? An mega high cost circus without bread; an event brought to us by a big society of Government, Macdonalds and Coca-cola but mainly our Government whilst London's workers are urged to stay at home, which is fine for those who can work on-line but maybe not so good for the hoi poloi working in the service industries, paid for the hours they actually work.

21 comments:

parepidemos said...

One thing that really raised my ire is when I read that those conglomerates which are involved in the Olympics (e.g. Coca Cola & Visa) are not to pay corporate tax on the profits they make.

Delia said...

Quite so. Blood was boiling this morning when I saw troops marching into Greenwich Park. The high-handed attitude of Logoc locally has been outrageous. For example, I have it on good authority that the director of the Maritime Museum was asked four years ago if the Queen's House could be used for the Olympics – but was told in no uncertain terms that he actually had no choice in the matter. The work of a national museum has been disrupted, and the Observatory is now closed, hence the groups of dispirited tourists trudging up and down the roads outside the park trying to get in. I've also been told that they've had to underpin the stadium because of all the rain - goodness knows what damage that will cause!

But the priest at Our Ladye Star of the Sea on Crooms Hill is trying to keep the church open as much as possible, and I am hoping that he will be able to organize a rota for Exposition on the day of the cross-country event, when literally thousands of people will be trudging past. Please pray that these initiatives will bear fruit.

KimHatton said...

Really, if it wasn't happening it could be a novel by J G Ballard.

Cuthbert said...

As much as I feel for the people of London having to put up with this, at least the South East will get some investment from all the extra tourism, etc. Up North, the vast majority of towns and cities, along with the vast majority of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the West Country, will receive very little, and still foot the bill as taxpayers. Nobody asked for this, why should we pay for such an expensive vanity project?

nickbris said...

Ever since 1945 when we were involved with lots of others in defeating Nazism,we have been constantly bombarded by stories and pictures showing how the British carried on stoically regardless of what the enemy could do with their bombing even during the darkest hours or the Blitz.

All this over-the-top security must surely have made us into a laughing stock and handed a resounding victory to our enemies.

When the people of Southampton decided to go out into the country to avoid the bombing during the War they were threatened with prosecution and any defeatist talk was unpatriotic.

If I was a Mujahid,Talib,Al Qaeda or any other enemy of Britain I would be laughing my socks off

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

I dont think you can argue that people from outside London are footing the bill for this. London pays several billion a year more into the treasury than it gets back every year.

Then there is this myth that londoners are richer than the rest of the country. This is also false, they just get to handle more money as they may get slightly higher wages, but far more goes out in rent, mortgages and fares to live in a smaller house/flat with longer hours and more congestion than the rest of the country.

Be nice if we had free prescriptions, free old age care, free university etc. all gained through lavish grants paid for by taking tax off people in London and giving it to regional councils elsewhere.

mike hurcum said...

Avery Brundage, for those who remember him, is turning over in his grave and the gladiators will perform again on sundays.

gemoftheocean said...

My favorite part of your post is the title. By numbering it, we can deduce you are planning on more Olympic Rants. Is your 2nd [?] cousin competing this time? It must be fun to have a family member who is or has competed.

Miffed said...

I have to take issue with Paul from Bedfordshire who is complaining that the taxation from people in London is providing lavish grants for the rest of the country. I fear he is another one with a memory going back no more than 40 years or so. The real wealth in this country was created in the north and the midlands. It was the mines, shipyards, steelworks, and factories way north of London that provided the wealth in the past 200 years, and the great profits were sucked back into the south east where all the head offices and money men were situated. It was this source of wealth, accrued through paying starvation wages, which has provided the financial base that the City of London now enjoys - and abuses.
And now that the business men and politicians have closed the mines, and the factories, and the steelworks, and the factories, the real wealth creators have been cast aside and abandoned because the work can be done more cheaply in Taiwan or Timbuktu. So let's not hear any talk about the south east subsidising the rest of the country. It will take another 150 years at least before the debt is equalled out. This is not a party political rant - just a statement of fact.

IanW said...

Amen and thrice so, Fr.

Sharon said...

As long as the arenas are reasonably full so that it looks good on TV, rights are sold for millions.

As long as a few people from third world countries win a few gold medals we won't comment when most of the medals are won by USA, China, etc

As long as the UK government can't be sued for negligence if there should be a terrorist attack.

As long as the corporate sponsers are happy.

Then, the Olympic Games should be a success.

Physiocrat said...

It is no accident that totalitarian regimes have always encouraged competitive sport. In modern times it comes from the same roots as social darwinism, Nazism, eugenics, euthanasia and a raft of other unpleasant things. Mixed into this toxic cocktail is the cult of celebrity.

The participants in these games have mostly wasted most of their teenage years swimming up and down swimming pools or in other pointless and brain-damaging activities, acting out their parents' and sports coaches' fantasies. They have been subjected to a form of abuse.

Physiocrat said...

The wealth of the country is steadily sucked into London and the south east. It is what happens. It is why you will pay the best part of a million pounds for a house in Hendon, North West London, but less than a couple of hundred thousand for a similar house in Hendon, Sunderland.

Let us have no more talk about London subsidising the rest of the country. If you have owned property in the south east for the past thirty years you can cash in and do very nicely. Where do think that has come from?

James C. said...

Well, we live in the new reality of Londonistan. With the rise of home-grown terror cells, the authorities would rather overcompensate than undercompensate. Remember that 7/7 took place right after London was chosen for these Olympics. And needless to say, there are many, many thousands more unassimilated Muslim immigrants in the country than there were only 7 years ago.

If an attack were to occur, the Government could at least claim they did everything conceivable and more to prevent it. Of course gunboats on the Thames are not likely to thwart a home-grown terror attack, but they look impressive in the news coverage.

GOR said...

I lost interest in the Olympics many years ago. It used to be for amateurs only and there was a sense of young people working hard to achieve success. Even managing to compete was considered a success.

Back in the day all of Ireland cheered if just one of our (very few…) participants even managed a Bronze. Today it has become big business. Here in the US the only thing that matters is winning Gold. Anything less is considered a ‘loss’… Not what the Olympics were - and still should be - about.

gemoftheocean said...

GOR -- oh no, GOR I think you are much too cynical. Just to get to compete is really something medals are nice (especially Gold!) but I think the vast majority are in it for the sport and not necessarily to get their face on a Wheaties box. For instance how nice that Zara Philips will get to represent the UK - her mother did all those years ago -- it's a very hard thing to make an Olympic team -- skill, for sure, but also sometimes a bit of luck if one is on the edge of making a team and someone gets injured, etc.

And Physiocrat, though the communist/Nazis types did sport for the ubermensch business, most countries do not. The USA for instance has ZERO government money supporting their olympians - it's all donations. We sure as heck don't have a 'sports minister' for heaven's sake. And as for the UK, though you like to badmouth yourselves and do the 'poor us, we never do anything right' on a per capita basis you have more medals than anyone! [For the summer olympics at least, last time I checked.]

Supertradmum said...

Here is my first rant and I feel like a prisoner already. It is not just the military, but the rude, rude visitors who are treating my backyard like a garbage dump.

My favorite phrase is circuses without bread. Who does benefit from all this?

Hate it,as most Londoners do, if I can call myself that living here for four months....http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/ah-olympics-mascots-and-cyclops.html

Supertradmum said...

Great minds think alike. I may not keep up with my rants, however, as the list is way too long..http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/olympic-disgust-three.htm

gemoftheocean said...

Para, I know the US government taxes US corporations on world wide earnings. Uncle Sucker will want his cut.

John Simlett said...

I'm quite surprised to read many of the comments here. With respect, they seem to chime with many popular, but ill-informed, rants.

I agree that the celebrity cult is an awful bi-product of modern society - so why use, celebrity, Bill Oddie's mast to nail our colours to? What qualifies him make his critique of the use of the military?

Placing a 'Battle Flight' at Northolt is no more expensive than leaving it where it was. We regularly 'scrambled' ours from Germany to Cyprus back in the 1970s - that cost a 'few bob.' I'm sure HMS Ocean moored in the Thames is probably cheaper than sending it steaming to the other side of the world.

The use of reasonable force, we are told, is appropriate when we are burgled. Here we have to judge what force is being used before we select our mode of defence. Extrapolation from this, would you have us wait for a 9/11 before we call up the RAF and request a Battle Flight?

Having had my school and houses around me bombed during WW2, gives me a slightly different take on bombardment than 'nickbris' and the stories he has been bombarded with.

JohnMicahelWilkins said...

You display prejudice of the most basic kind by stating that athletes competing in the Games are mostly illiterate. This is just insulting.