The London Olympics and the London Riots

Source: The Nation

And so they played beach volleyball in small bikinis; on imported sand; while the world burned.

It aint exactly Shakespeare, but it is actually what happened earlier this week as the London Olympic Committee staged a beach volleyball exhibition as fires engulfed the city.

Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympics are in less than a year and this week’s explosion of bottled fury has the International Olympic Committee on edge. Even worse for Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, the riots took place as representatives from 200 Olympic Committees across the globe visited the city, just in time for the days of rage. Can you imagine the scene? It would be like Michele Bachmann and her 197 children visiting New York City and walking straight into the Gay Pride Parade.

As Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics said, “There’s no doubt that this is a very bad day, a worrying day…. Olympic organizers in London planned to protect London from conventional terrorism. But of all the things they might have thought might happen, I’d be surprised if civil insurrections was high up on their list of expected risk factors.”

The knotty problem however is that the Olympics—courtesy of Tony Blair’s Labour Party—aren’t a parallel operation to the mass civic unrest but an aggravator. As social services wither, the Olympics will cost upwards of 20 billion pounds and the Olympic torch has acted as an instrument of arson. Ask the residents of Clays Lane Estate, in East London. Clay’s Lane Estate was the largest housing cooperative in the UK, and the second largest in all of Europe. Over protests, Clay’s Lane was demolished to make way for Olympic Facilities. The protests haven’t been heard, and we get riots, or, as Dr. King put it, “the language of the unheard.

But much of the political class choose to hear nothing. London Mayor Boris Johnson rushed back from holiday to say, “In less than 12 months we will welcome the world to a great summer Games in the greatest city on earth—and by then we must all hope that we will look back on these events as a bad dream.”

Tom Jenkins, the European Tour Operators Association executive director, sniffed, “I don’t think the rioting will impact the Olympics. The Olympics is, overwhelmingly, a domestic event. British people won’t be put off from visiting the Olympics in Stratford because a year earlier shop windows were broken in Hackney.”

Former Olympic great, and current Olympic flack Lord Sebastian Coe even called everything this past week, “Business as usual.”

But the many others are far less confident. Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder in the marathon said, “In less than one year we welcome the world, and right now they don’t want to come.”

The question now is whether the IOC will demand an even more severe police crackdown to ensure that the games will be run according to plan.

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