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The latest act of Counter Olympic resistance will take place on 28th January at London’s Toynbee Hall, bringing together housing, civilliberties, anti-corporate and environmental campaigners with academics, artists and affected Londoners.
‘Countering the Olympics’ will be a day long interrogation of all aspects of Olympic cost and an opportunity for Londoners to share strategies and make their voices heard, bringing together groups such as Save Wanstead Flats, NoGOE and campaigns over corporate sponsors.
As detailed in the ‘Olympic Struggle’ blogpost earlier this month, Olympi-critical activism has been extant since 2004, but sporadic and disparate. Organisers hope on the day to bring together the different campaigns and concerns and see what can be done to push back what has felt to many like a tide of disenfranchisement.
As the costs mount, awareness of the scale of the exclusion, repression and misrepresentation increases along with the realisation of the extent to which none of this is about us. Londoners feel the disconnect between official rhetoric and lived reality as official missives begin arriving advising them against staying in their homes this summer/using public transport/attempting to work or move or live.
Official contempt for people’s concerns is overt: Transport for London’s William Hoyle recently designated event organisers “a bunch of whinging whatevers,” pronouncing “shame some people have nothing positive to bring to the table. It’s easy to sit on the fence and be a whinger much harder (sic) to contribute something positive.” Less aggressive but just as derisive, Ken Livingstone defended his support for the Olympics at a mayoral Hustings last November insisting that through the Games “we’re bringing transport to east London. We’re bringing water, infrastructure…”
Apart from begging the question of precisely where east of Bow Bells Ken thinks mains water supplies ends, his claim demonstrated the sense of cross party impunity. Plans for regeneration of Stratford predated the Olympic bid by a decade and plans for Crossrail were approved irrespective of the bid. 35,000 new jobs and more than 5000 homes were planned for Stratford City years before Olympic considerations. In any event, the “water and infrastructure” being brought to east London are unlikely to serve many apart from the elite able to inhabit the largely private new developments.
The enormity of the Olympics has bred a sense of fatalism, a feeling that, as frequently heard in the process of organizing CTO, it’s happening. We can’t stop it. We’ll just have to hunker down and wait ‘ til it’s all over.
Unfortunately, this is not an option. The more we learn about the reach of the Olympics, the more we understand the project—with its ‘no protest’ zones, provisions of the Olympic Act threatening to criminalise all dissent, army troops on standby, ground to air missiles at the ready—as a Trojan Horse to deliver a militarised gentrification planned for years before the bid and affecting us for decades to come.
These excesses have to be stopped. It is possible to stop them. In this sense, there’s everything to play for.