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The Internal Tourism Experience

Cover image of <em>Philosophy of Olympism</em>, Ljubodrag SimonovicCover image of Philosophy of Olympism, Ljubodrag Simonovic

The Normalisation of the Exceptional

Something to look forward to in London

"Military-grade fortressification has become standard procedure for host cities during mega-events, and Vancouver was no exception. The security budget was originally estimated at $175 million, but eventually skyrocketed to more than $1 billion, a process indigenous activist Gord Hill characterized as ‘police extortion from the ruling class’.18 Canadian authorities used the Olympics as an opportunity to jack up the Kevlar-per-capita quotient. Even the Globe and Mail was alarmed: ‘You don’t have to be a disciple of dissent to be dismayed at the amount of money being spent on security for the Vancouver Olympics’.19 Canadian officials used the money to establish a surveillance-blanketed urban terrain, employing 17,000 security agents. The Canadian Border Services Agency inserted their officers—essentially the immigration police—into the Downtown Eastside, demanding residents provide proof of citizenship. Police confronted demonstrators with semi-automatic weapons, normalizing authoritarianism and proliferating fear. More importantly, the high-tech policing equipment for today’s state of exception becomes tomorrow’s new normal: military-style weaponry that can be employed day-to-day.

The heavy police presence was accompanied by the installation of nearly 1,000 cctv cameras in greater Vancouver. The city’s Integrated Security Unit promised to take them down after the Games were over, but ‘take down’ does not mean ‘go away’. Surveillance went beyond these ever-winking red eyes. Police Chief Jamie Graham bragged about the infiltration of anti-Olympic groups by security agents: a police spy had wormed his way into becoming a bus driver who transported activists to a protest of the Olympic torch relay. Outspoken Olympics critic Christopher Shaw, the author of Five Ring Circus, experienced intense harassment from VISU. Beginning in June 2009, he was approached by VISU at home, at work and on the street. Sometimes officials would be holding a copy of his book, saying they had found ‘disturbing information’ that they wanted to discuss, or that VISU investigator Jeff Francis ‘says hi’. By 2010 these visits were almost daily occurrences, with VISU also questioning his friends, girlfriend and ex-wife. Almost everyone involved in the Olympic Resistance Network was visited by VISU for questioning."

From: The Anti-Olympics, Jules Boykoff, New Left Review, Jan-Feb 2011

Coming soon: Securing and Sustaining the Olympic City, Reconfiguring London for 2012 and beyond, Pete Fussey, Jon Coaffee, Gary Armstrong, Dick Hobbs, Ashgate (April 2011)

Often seen as the host nation's largest ever logistical undertaking, accommodating the Olympics and its attendant security infrastructure brings seismic changes to both the physical and social geography of its destination.

Since 1976, the defence of the spectacle has become the central feature of its planning, one that has assumed even greater prominence following the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Games and, most importantly, 9/11. Such costs are not only fiscal. The Games stimulate a tidal wave of redevelopment ushering in new gentrified urban settings and an associated investment that may or may not soak through to the incumbent community. Given the unusual step of developing London's Olympic Park in the heart of an existing urban milieu and the stated commitments to 'community development' and 'legacy', these constitute particularly acute issues for the 2012 Games.

In addition to sealing the Olympic Park from perceived threats, 2012 security operations have also harnessed the administrative criminological staples of community safety and crime reduction to generate an ordered space in the surrounding areas. Of central importance here are the issues of citizenship, engagement and access in urban spaces redeveloped upon the themes of security and commerce.

Through analyzing the social and community impact of the 2012 Games and its security operation on East London, this book concludes by considering the key debates as to whether utopian visions of legacy can be sustained given the demands of providing a global securitized event of the magnitude of the modern Olympics. (Publicity blurb)


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