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Lords of the Rings take over London

When a café owner has to change its name, shops are banned from having a certain number of linked rings in their window, roads are barred to ordinary motorists and thousands of police and soldiers occupy a quarter of a major city, it can only mean one thing – the Olympics are here.

And when corporations are provided with a tax-free zone for the duration of the Games, you know that the shadowy International Olympic Committee is running the show. Tax exemptions were granted by UK tax authorities as part of a package of concessions demanded by the IOC. They apply to corporation and income tax for non-UK companies and individuals working on the Olympics between 30 March and 8 November this year.
 
The IOC’s charter states that their mission is “to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead the Olympic movement” and “to oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes”. This is hypocrisy writ large from the owners of the Olympic rings logo.

London 2012 is the most commercialised Olympics of all time. From the organisation of the torch relay by three global corporations to the domination of the Olympic park by McDonalds et al, to the rule of Nike and Adidas on the track, it is one big profitable enterprise.

The promise of “regeneration” of East London, where some of the poorest communities in Britain live, was key to London winning the race for the Games in 2007. Local people are searching for the evidence.

Olympic Village housing has been sold to a Middle East-led consortium to be converted into luxury flats. Unemployment remains above the national average, with few jobs going to local people during the construction phase.

OlympicsCivil liberties have gone out of the window in a self-declared Olympic Exclusion Zone. Protests are banned, encampments forbidden and activists barred from going anywhere near the Games. The area is an armed camp, complete with guided missiles, warships and fighter planes.

As for access to tickets for the events held in their midst, forget it. None were set aside for the local community who have endured years of disruption (national IOC officials, meanwhile, have been making money by selling their allocation on the black market). Ah, but the local community does have a massive new shopping centre which, symbolically, visitors to London 2012 events have to pass through to get to the Olympic park.

"Whose Games? Whose City?
No Limos!
No Logos!
No Launchers! Demonstrate Against the Corporate Olympics."

None of this of concern to the IOC, which holds the exclusive TV rights for the Olympics, selling them to the highest bidder. Eleven of the 2012 sponsors have paid the IOC $957 million, not only for international brand exposure over the course of the 19 days, but also for exclusivity in providing services and products. 

They include the notorious Dow Chemicals, Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Samsung and Panasonic. Then there’s Atos, the firm hired to reduce the number of people claiming disability benefits. Some 3,100 claimants had appeals upheld in May 2011, up from 900 in the same month in 2010, the latest figures show.

On average almost two in five, 38%, challenged decisions are overturned at tribunal, nearly one in 10 of all those made. Atos staff are threatening a strike over low pay during the Olympics.

These kinds of actions are considered unpatriotic by the government and the Labour “opposition”. Yesterday, both David Cameron and Ed Miliband condemned plans by Home Office and Border Agency staff to strike on the eve of the opening ceremony over pay and job losses. Nothing must be allowed to disrupt what is to all intents and purposes a massive, corporate, branding exercise. 

Fortunately, few people listen to the political elite any more. A protest was staged recently at a BP-backed Royal Shakespeare Company production against the oil corporation, which is also an Olympic sponsor. And on July 28, the Counter-Olympics Network is planning to defy a ban and march through Bow. The march is taking place under the slogans “Whose Games? Whose City? No Limos! No Logos! No Launchers! Demonstrate Against the Corporate Olympics.”
 
Paul Feldman
Communications editor
20 July 2012

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