London 2012 Olympic Games news and views round-up

Anyone wanting to make an early start on preparations for the IDEA-organised show debate at the symposium, or anyone looking for some extra research material to use in the symposium's marketplace of ideas, should take a look at the following websites and news articles. They provide some engaging insights into the planning process for the London Olympic Games, the effect that they will have on London communities and their likely legacy.

The UK based civil rights and campaigning organisation Liberty has set up a mini-campaign that is attempting to raise awareness of police powers and surveillance issues linked to the Olympics. Their “Freedom Games?” page gives useful and concise explanations of the legal instruments that might allow the police to use stop and search powers more widely during the Olympics, notably Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This law would allow police officers to search anyone, whether they were acting in a suspicious fashion or not, within a specially designated area.

The page also highlights a new law (The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act) that allows the authorities to ban “advertising or announcements of a non-commercial nature” in areas near the Olympic complex.

An article published in the Guardian at the end of 2011 notes that American security officials are worried about safety arrangements that have been made ahead of the 2012 Games. It highlights the use of private security guards to make up for shortfalls in the number of police officers available, but also notes that stop and search and anti-terrorism powers may be used more liberally than before.

The independent anti-racist organisation the Newham Monitoring Project have produced a video, in collaboration with the poet Benjamin Zephania have produced a video to raise awareness of their support services for young people and members of minority who have been stopped by the police.

The NMP believes that up to 12,000 police officers could be active in east London during the 2012 Games.

Back at the Guardian, the academic Stephen Graham takes an in-depth look at the security hardware being installed as part of the wider reconstruction project surrounding the Olympic park. He notes that the video surveillance system that was used to monitor the Athens games cost almost $300m and is still be used by the Greek authorities to control and track political protests.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee, a body set up to ensure that government funds are spent responsibly and transparently, has suggested that the Olympics may be about to overrun its budgets. It also notes that the cost of providing security for the games has almost doubled.

Another deep look at the politics of the games is provided by the highly contrarian Spiked magazine, in an article which references the sports academic Gavin Poynter. It argues that the increases in land value and opportunities for commercial investment that the Olympics will introduce into east London will not necessarily create beneficial outcomes for the area’s most marginalised inhabitants. Spiked suggests that the end result may be an increase in cynicism among Londoners about politicians' ability to deliver on their promises – especially after the seven years of grand pledges that preceded the 2012 Olympics.

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