This week the Olympic torch left London for its 70 day trip, to return for the games themselves in late July. While millions will watch the games from afar, most will likely wish that they could be there for the games themselves. However, evidence is showing that the games may be doing Londoners more harm than good.
Firstly, staunch limits can be placed on exactly what Londoners can say about the Olympics. Due to the passing of the London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act in 2006, the Olympics will have even more protection than with standard British Copyright laws. It’s now illegal to use the terms “2012” or “games” together, either of those words with “London,” “medals,” or “sponsor,” or “Olympics” by itself. While we have yet to see exactly how diligently violators will be prosecuted, imagine being the owner of a pub in the area, unable to use the games to promote your Fish and Chips. So much for the economic benefits of the Olympics in this case.
Stadium security also seems like a threat to the enjoyment of many game attendees. Ticket holders will not be able to take in food, soft drinks, or any liquid in containers over 100 ml. Of course even those with tickets will be lucky, given that less than half of the tickets at showpiece events will be given to the public, the rest going to sponsors, game officials, or their VIP guests. Worse yet, the security may not be effective in the end: earlier this month a worker was able to carry a fake bomb into the Olympic Stadium 24 hours before its official opening without being searched at all. The 40,000 guests present have only luck to thank that they were a day late, and that the bomb was made only to show the lack of security.
For those who don’t want anything to do with the Olympics altogether, it will be difficult to avoid game related traffic. Many roadways on London will be converted into “VIP Lanes”, which have resulted in what international traffic studying group INRIX predicting to be increased traffic congestion by 33% during the time of the games. And, of course, those who pay taxes to Britain will still have to deal with the cost of the games once they’re all over – about 14.7 billion dollars. And while we don’t know exactly how China did during the Beijing Olympics, given the nation’s secrecy, we do know that in the games before, Greece spent at least $10 billion to get back only $5 billion. The boost from the increased trade from the games is temporary, but at the end of the day the host nation still has to pay for all of the big buildings and infrastructure.
Some of the infrastructure that has been most costly – and most controversial – for the London games has been that of the military security. Not just the security of individual stadiums, but of the city in general. Surface-to-air missiles have been set up within the city, leaving the question of exactly what happens when something is shot down over a metropolis like London – if the missiles actually work. Videos have come out of rockets and other military equipment being unwatched and unguarded by the army bringing them there possibly making them more of a risk than an aid. Unmanned drones are to be sent watching the skies of London – despite the fact that of four constabularies (police departments) in the nation adopting them, only one has kept them, while other departments have ruled them not worth the money. In Merseyside, police bought a similar drone for about $16,500 – only for it to crash into a river and go missing. The use of drones will, while acting as great talking point for the government, not make the games. The British navy’s largest ship, bearing the apt if uninspired name of the HMS Ocean, has sailed in to occupy the river. For a series of games inspired by international peace, the sights to see will have even more military flavor than usual.
I think I’ll just stay at home this time.