Games Monitor

Skip to main content.

The London Olympics and the state we’re in

The personal story of Olympic pundit, filmmaker and journalist, Mike Wells: an entertaining yet troubling tale of wrongful imprisonment and intrigue. Wells uses the London Olympics as a lens through which to look at the state of Britain.

The case against me was the result of an unscheduled Olympic boxing match. It occurred in April 2012 at Leyton Marshes outside a construction site where basketball courts were being built for the Games. Local opposition to the basketball facility was passionate because it was being erected on much loved parkland. Protesting grandmothers, dog walkers, and transvestites amongst others had made themselves unpopular by sitting in front of construction vehicles. I was there shooting footage for my film ‘London Takes Gold’.

I arrived at Leyton Marshes, a beautiful green space in East London, to find an excavator working in open parkland without safety measures. ‘Worth filming’ I thought. A passing walker suddenly veered from his course and stood in front of the machine. He started yelling at the driver to stop work owing to the likelihood of crushing dogs and people with the machine’s wildly swinging arm.

Passing walker shouts at digger driver to stop workPassing walker shouts at digger driver to stop work

The digger seemed pretty dangerous to me as well and I was starting to get angry. I shouted at the driver, telling him to stop his machine because it wasn’t safe. He was getting pretty agitated as well and made some sarcastic comments - ‘you haven’t got a job have you’, and ‘I’ll have you’ etc. I was close to the machine’s cab. Suddenly its door flew open and a muddy steel toe-capped safety boot swung past my head. His kick missed and he leapt on me from the height of the machine, his momentum forcing me and my filmmaker’s face into the ground . He struck me in the back - I couldn’t see him so had no way of knowing if it was a kick or a punch. Either way it took the wind out of me and straight away I knew my ribs were broken.

I never trained in the art of pugilism and my ability to defend myself wasn’t impressive. I was struggling to turn face up on the ground so I could hit the guy back, but before I could a group of security guards who had been standing nearby dragged the unharmed driver off me.

I got up off the ground. Some of the guards were leading the driver away - others remained. There were about 6 of them and they forced me to the ground - they were on my back, on my freshly broken ribs. While having my face rammed into the ground for a second time I wondered if these guys stood in front of their bedroom mirrors attempting to perfect their image - black uniform, short haircuts, wraparound sunglasses.

The short haircuts hauled me out of the park, then held me in an armlock they hadn’t learned on a Buddhist Retreat. I was held captive in this way until twenty or so minutes later a car pulled up. It had a sticker on the side saying ‘Working for a Safer London’. It was the police. Things weren’t going well for me, but I could understand the chain of interests - the machine driver was working for the haircuts’ client, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

I was handcuffed, arrested, and shoved into the back of the police car, transferred to an ambulance and then back to the police car. Many other police cars turned up. There seemed to be uniforms everywhere, and from the back of the police car I was able to observe police officers with impressive arrays of silver insignia on their epaulettes. They seemed to be talking to each other about me. I felt pretty shaken up.

Many high ranking officers: and they were all there for me, the real ones not so cuddlyMany high ranking officers: and they were all there for me, the real ones not so cuddly as the London bobby Olympic mascots

After 24 hours in a nasty cell in Leyton police station (built especially for the Olympics) I was formally informed by the Custody Sergeant that I ... ‘may make mischief in relation to the Olympics if released’, and they were going to keep me locked up. Hey this was a learning process - I hadn’t known they locked people up for their potential of making ‘mischief’. I spent 48 hours in this fluorescent tube lit nightmare of a place after which I was transported to court for a bail hearing, where it would be decided if I should go to prison until they put me on trial.

At this bail hearing the prosecution lawyer claimed I was part of a conspiracy against the London Olympics. He was convincing. He claimed I’d broken an injunction making it illegal for me to have filmed on Leyton Marshes and alleged I’d been filming with a ‘large camera’- and had been - ‘passing the identities of Olympic contractors to other protesters for the purpose of intimidating them’. All completely untrue. I was not passing anything on to anybody. ‘London Takes Gold’, the film I was working on, was shot entirely on a smart phone - not a ‘large camera’.

Feelings amongst locals towards the construction of the basketball courts ran high enough to have sent out an invite to the Occupy Movement to set up an encampment on the Marshes which they had done, and with the world’s press about to descend on London for the Olympic period the authorities were getting twitchy over the possibility of bad publicity. The situation was escalating. The ODA’s response was to seek an injunction in an attempt to prevent unruly local peasants and supporters protesting over the loss of their green space. As a journalist I had attended the High Court hearing at which the injunction came into being. A ragtag group of local residents, the same grandmothers et al who had sat in front of lorries, pitched themselves in a legal battle against some of the best paid lawyers in the land. David did not give Goliath a pasting, and the authorities got their injunction.

locals protest 2: Protesting locals surround perimiter fence before construction work commencedlocals protest: protesting locals surround perimiter fence before construction work commenced

Meanwhile at my bail hearing Judge Sendhimdown (I don’t want to remember his face or his real name), a middle aged man, wearing a gold buttoned middle blue blazer with hanky in his top pocket, wasn’t difficult to persuade, and after shouting at my lawyer, he remanded me to Thameside prison. He seemed to be in a bad mood. It’s not possible to know if he liked me less than I liked him.

An injunction can only be valid if served on named persons. The injunction hadn’t been served on me and I wasn’t named in it.

I was quite upset about being sent to prison - for allegedly assaulting someone who’d assaulted me, for having the potential to ‘make mischief’, for breaking an injunction that did not apply to me, and for being wrongly accused of having a ‘large camera’.

In prison I got a bit paranoid, as the nature of the crazy world I had entered dawned on me and that they would most likely try and keep me in jail for months. To be honest in the privacy of my cell there were tears - more than once. I was beginning to realise the extent of the authorities' paranoia over the Olympics and that I was being subjected to that paranoia.

London Olympic stadium on the left: in the foreground on the right workers installing some of the 900 day and night vision cameras which top the 17.5 km, 5,000 volt electrified fence which surrounds the entire Olympic enclosureLondon Olympic stadium in the background to the left: and in the foreground (right) workers installing some of the 900 day and night vision cameras which top the 17.5 km, 5,000 volt electrified fence which surrounds the entire Olympic enclosure

Police boat: guarding Olympic rings on the River Thames during the GamesPolice boat: guarding Olympic rings on the River Thames during the Games

My lawyer appealed the decision of the first bail hearing and eight days after my arrest, early one morning, I was transported from prison back to court for another bail hearing, where they would decide if I would be spending the coming months in prison until my trial. It was interesting seeing the system they use to transport prisoners. It was in one of those Serco prisoner transport vans I’d seen as a free man. Prisoners are handcuffed and led one by one out of the jail into the van and then into a small fibreglass cubicle within it. There was a clever system that allowed the driver and his mate to place you in the cubicle still handcuffed but then with the door open a couple of inches they take the cuffs off before finally locking you in your own private chicken coop. We were then taken on a tour of London police stations picking up other prisoners, and en-route through the tinted van window I was able to enjoy the passing spectacle of the Olympic Stadium.

Arriving at court the procedure of unloading prisoners was reversed and we were escorted into something like a dingy medieval dungeon. The cells were tiny with paint peeling from their walls. They were just large enough for one person and empty except for a hard wooden bench wide enough to lie down on. This is where prisoners sweat until the court is ready to hear their case, when prisoners are again handcuffed, led upstairs and put into a glass cage in the courtroom. While I waited, in the discomfort of my cell I was able to listen to on of my fellow inmates from the prison, a fragile looking kid, lose the plot. It sounded to me as though he had slipped into a state of psychosis. I made a number of appeals to the guards to call a doctor for him. After a few hours I was led upstairs to the courtroom by a guard asked me what I was in for, ‘murder’ I replied. As he had just handcuffed himself to me I could feel him stiffen before I said ... ‘only joking’, and he relaxed again - until I mentioned the genocide.

I now knew I could psychologically cope with prison but it seemed like a massive waste of time and there were things I wanted to do such as finish the film and, sitting in that glass enclosure I felt disempowered, anxious and apprehensive. This is when my new barrister - Tom Stevens came onto the scene. Tom is born to perform in court, has a credibility beyond his 30 or so years and is a master of leaning in an impressive lawyer-like way on the advocates’ bench while arguing well reasoned points of law and logic.

The judge was white woman of around 65, with a kind face. I reckoned she bought her clothes at Marks and Spencer and looked as though she’d recently visited a quality hair salon. The young prosecution lawyer seemed new to the job. Her contribution amounted to mumbling incoherently while shuffling through bits of paper - never actually finding what she was looking for. My friends were prepared to put up money for bail and other friends gave character references. The judge listened.

I was given bail - no money required as security, the conditions were that I until my trial I didn’t go near the guy who’d attacked me and that I didn’t go within 100 metres of any Olympic venue. They didn’t release me straight away though. I was led back down to my cell - the court’s bureaucrats were apparently at lunch and so I spent another 3 hours at Her Majesty's pleasure listening to the kid continuing his descent into madness with no medical attention.

Locals continue to protest: in front of the the finished basketball courts.Locals continue to protest: in front of the the finished basketball courts.

The next stage in this legal pantomime came with my trial some nine months after the alleged incident. It was because I had a good lawyer I hadn’t been in prison for those 9 months awaiting the trial- for an alleged crime that carried a maximum 6 month sentence. The trial wasn’t disappointing - a proper drama, it would have worked well on telly, with clear hostility between the lawyers. When District Judge Reed, a grey haired man of around 70 wearing a dark blue blazer with the compulsory hankie in his top pocket, left the courtroom to consider a disagreement between prosecution and defence, the lawyers continued their argument. There were hostile glances and some uncomfortable body language, followed by an awkward silence.

The case against me relied on one witness - also the alleged victim. Unsurprisingly, as the statements he had made were untrue, he expressed his reluctance to attend the trial. He therefore had to be summonsed to give evidence. The security guards who had witnessed the assault on me, and who had themselves forced me to the ground and sat on me did not provide any evidence. Maybe their wraparound sunglasses were simply too dark.

My barrister, Tom Stevens, cross examining the driver of the digger, pointed out that at every stage in the legal process he had given differing accounts of what had happened. During a 20 minute cross examination the driver changed from an upright confident strutting man into a spluttering head barely visible above the witness stand. Eventually he expressed his unwillingness to give evidence, described the process as “shit”, yawned frequently and failed to answer Mr Stevens’ questions. Judge Reed did not throw the case out of court, but more than once, in response to groans of disapproval, he threatened to remove people from the Spectators’ Gallery.

The prosecution lawyer was gifted. She alleged I was a protester with anti-Olympic sympathies and argued this was my motivation for the alleged assault on the excavator driver. She went the extra mile and also attempted to discredit witnesses called by my lawyer. Cross-examining me she made statements as to my anti Olympic sympathies, saying ‘this is why you assaulted Mr X isn’t it Mr Wells’. I had to ask her if she was asking me questions or making statements. On about five different occasions she mentioned how well educated I am (little does she know) in a bid to portray me as using this to mislead the court. She was good at her job.

Before Judge Reed gave his verdict he went through a lengthy summing up - ‘on the one hand this - on the other that’. Julian Cheyne, a friend and co-contributor to Games Monitor (a website set up to monitor the London Olympics) commented that he had a feeling the Judge really wanted to find me guilty. My impression was the same. In his summing up Judge Reed rambled on saying he knew something had gone on at Leyton Marshes but couldn’t tell what it was. When I gave evidence I told the court what had happened. The judge’s comments made me think he hadn’t believed me. But Tom Stevens was on my side and he’d argued the case well, so well it would have been almost impossible for the judge to find me guilty. I was found innocent and was told I was free to leave court.

Some cynics have suggested my arrest, imprisonment, and trial could be seen as political, because through Games Monitor and other media outlets, I have been an outspoken critic of London 2012. Also the incident occurred on the site of an Olympic construction project which had attracted significant protest and media coverage.

I documented many protests over Olympic grievances such as that against the demolition of the Housing Cooperative I used to live in (housing for 500 people). The land it stood on is between what is now the Athletes’ Village and the Velodrome. There have been many protests over issues connected with the Olympics, some small, some large and as a journalist I documented most of them.

Clays Lane Housing Cooperative: seen here after its destruction had begun, it was home to 500 people. It was not replaced.Clays Lane Housing Coop: seen here after its destruction had begun, it was home to 500 people. It was not replaced.

One of the protests I attended was over the destruction of my friends’ allotment gardens. In 1900 these allotments were given to the gardeners of East London by an old fashioned philanthropist, Major Villiers. There was sweet story told by the older allotment holders: apparently managers at a Bovril factory on the opposite side of the River Lea wrote to the Major saying they wanted to extend their factory and asked how much he would sell the allotments site for. The story is that Villiers wrote back asking ‘how much they wanted for the factory as he wanted to extend the allotments’. To me the Mayor’s attitude is the opposite of that which pervades the London Olympics and its so called legacy. Villiers clearly cared about the ordinary person, the small person, and about the land.

Gardeners protest the loss of their allotments: and make and appeal to the mayor the the day Ken LivingstoneGardeners protest the loss of their allotment: and make and appeal to the mayor the the day Ken Livingstone

To say I have never considered violence as a means of dealing with the Olympics would not be totally honest. After our homes at the housing cooperative were demolished to make way for the Olympic ‘Park’ I moved onto a boat. Shortly before the London Olympics the authorities tried to impose new regulations which would have made life for our community of boat dwellers impossible. The Olympic ‘Park’ is ringed by the waterways we live on. Many of our boats, though full of character, look a bit tatty. Storage space is at a premium on a boat, so often folks leave stuff on their roofs - bicycles, fire wood, hosepipes. bags of coal etc. This look, this authentic display of tat, is the antithesis of the glitzy Olympic brand, which was why I thought they wanted us out of sight.

London's boating community: not really compatible with the Olympic brand?London's boating community: not really compatible with the Olympic brand?

Our community fought the new regulations and as things turned out we were only banned from our home waterways for about 3 months over the Olympic period - we were apparently seen as a security threat - though strangely we were not seen as such if we paid an extra £500 for the privilege of being in this so called Olympic exclusion zone (we already pay a licence fee to use the waterways). At the time I saw this as another Olympic blitzkrieg on a community I love, so I talked to my mates about an idea I had. This is where the violence comes in - why didn’t I publicly challenge Olympic boss Sebastian Coe to a wrestling match? He’s a sporting man after all!

The deal would be - he wins, and I would stop my criticism of London 2012, I win, and our community would be left alone. Surely giving Coe a good thrashing in a properly refereed bout would be a completely acceptable use of violence and probably better entertainment than the Olympics. The idea never quite clambered into the ring, and considering my not so impressive attempt to fight off the Olympic digger driver it was probably good it never did.

I found the prosecution’s suggestion that I was a protester, and that this was relevant to my case unsurprising. Protest does not infer violence - in many cases it suggests the opposite. But authority doesn’t like protest, and the Olympics added to their paranoia in relation to protest, a point made clear after Len McCluskey of Unite Union told the Guardian that civil disobedience could be timed to disrupt the 2012 Games. The BBC reported that a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the idea ‘unacceptable and unpatriotic’ (29th Feb 2012).

My relationship with protest is perhaps difficult for the authorities to understand. Am I a protester with an interest in journalism? Am I a journalist with an interest in protest? Would I be better called a campaigning journalist? And if someone protests once, are they forever more a protester? In any case the bar set to place someone on the police’s Domestic Extremist list is apparently set at a much lower level than an Olympic high jump. It is likely that the grandmothers et al who protested the construction of the basketball courts will be on the list and, I’m pretty sure I’ll be on it as well. I don’t consider the grandmothers or myself extreme and the use of the word extreme in this context should be a matter of concern.

The fact is that I was not on the Marshes that day to protest, or to be ‘extreme’. I was there to film and the case against me was, at best, flimsy. As Tom Stevens my barrister commented:

‘The stark feature of this case is just how little evidence there is... Is it possible there is a very bitter irony in this case, that being the man who sits in the dock was ultimately motivated by concerns over safety of others, and yet he finds himself charged with in effect flagrantly disregarding people’s safety?’

The case brought against me in many ways reminded me of the Olympic project - a job creation scheme for government employees and contractors. Costs factored into bringing a case against me should include police time, prosecution and defence costs, court costs, prisoner transport, the attendance of witnesses at court, eight days of incarceration. I did not factor into that figure the cost of feeding me during my imprisonment as the food was virtually worthless. I lost weight.

General view over a small part of the Olympic construction site during the excavation phase: opportunities for trousering serious cashGeneral view over a small part of the Olympic construction site during the excavation phase: opportunities for trousering serious cash

Had the case for the London Olympics been in the dock instead of me, unlike the a judge and dominatrix, it would simply not have stood up in court. The most perfunctory of cross examinations would have torn it apart. The most profound flaw in the project is that 24 days of sport simply can’t be worth £24 billion (Daily Mail’s estimate). How seriously the ODA took the problem of selling the defective idea of building stadia, swimming pools, horse riding arenas and perhaps the most important venues of all, the VIP enclosures, for a mere 24 days of use is demonstrated by the fact that Public Relations was high enough on their agenda to support a board level Directorship in Communications, filled by Godric Smith, who trousered £262,000 in 2010-11. Mr Smith, like other senior level staff at the ODA, has now landed another nice job - as the Executive Director of Government Communications.

With regard to my case some people have suggested a conspiracy. The Oxford English Dictionary states that a conspiracy is ‘a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful’. In relation to the charge of Common Assault brought against me - as I was advised by my lawyer at the police station - ‘no comment’. As for London 2012 - it was a plan by a group, and in my opinion that plan was harmful, and in some cases unlawful. There were secrets and deception right from the beginning of the project - the original cost estimate of £2.37 billion for hosting the Games was not plausible. It was already known that a few years before the Athens Games had cost £9 billion and London is a more expensive city than Athens, plus there was the costly problem of attempting to decontaminate the land of the Olympic ‘Park’ which had for more than a century been a home to, and a dumping ground for, all manner of noxious industries.

Another reason I am critical of the London Olympics stems from an investigation carried out by Intelligence Analyst Paul Charman and myself into the issue of land contamination. Contractors working in the Olympic ‘Park’ excavated thousands of tonnes of soil contaminated with radioactive isotopes. The origin of some of the isotopes found on the site remain a mystery but Thorium originates from the salt used in the manufacture of gas mantles (the forerunner to the electric light bulb). Radium probably originates from the manufacture and application of glow in the dark paints for luminescent watch and instrument dials.

The ODA and its contractors were clearly shaken by the problem of what to do with this material. The situation attracted careful ‘communications management’ and incredibly it did not turn out to be a public relations disaster.

The eventual solution was astonishing, and completely at odds with legislation - to re-bury more than a hundred tonnes of Low Level Radioactive Waste, along with thousands of tonnes of other radioactively contaminated soil, 250 metres north of the main Olympic stadium.

Olympic contractor: checks for radioactive contaminationOlympic contractor: checks for radioactive contamination

Regulations insist this material should have been taken to Drigg, the UK's Low Level Radioactive Waste Repository in Cumbria, however incredibly documents obtained by Charman and myself show the Environment Agency told contractors they were ‘comfortable’ with the proposal to re-bury this material in the Olympic ‘Park’. My theory is that there was reluctance to send this material to Drigg because if it had been it would have been subjected to external analysis and scrutiny.

There is now a plan to build a block of flats on top of this unofficial radioactive waste repository despite ODA assurances that it would remain undisturbed.

Around a third of the surface area of what is now known as the London Olympic ‘Park’ was formerly landfill rubbish dumps which contained domestic and industrial waste. Government documents recommend that such highly polluted sites should be investigated for radioactive contamination prior to excavation work. The ODA chose not to carry out such investigations. From documents Charman and myself obtained under Freedom of Information Act we learned that in 2007, months after excavation work commenced on the site, the ODA appointed radiation protection advisors. The first day they arrived on site they started finding radioactive contamination, and it was discovered contractors had been excavating material contaminated with radioactive isotopes for months. Paul Charman also found evidence that dust suppression on the site was inadequate and that there has been numerous complaints about dust from the Olympic construction site. The inhalation of dusts contaminated with radioactive isotopes of the sorts the Olympic ‘Park” is contaminated with pose a serious risk to health. I therefore fail to see how the ODA’s claim that there was “no risk” to workers or local residents could be honestly made.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material were excavated on the Olympic site: before it was found to have been contaminated with radioactive isotopesHundreds of thousands of tonnes of material were excavated on the Olympic site: before it was found to have been contaminated with radioactive isotopes

Dust: blowing around the Olympic construction site. Inhalation of radioactive dust would not create a positive health outcomeDust: blowing around the Olympic construction site. Inhalation of radioactive dust would not create a positive health outcome

I believe work on the site did pose significant risk of significant harm, and independent experts should be appointed to investigate this before any further excavation work is carried out on the site in the legacy phase. The site remains highly contaminated, not just with radioactive isotopes but all manner of chemicals and biological agents. On a recent site tour I noted and photographed excavation work is again being carried out on the site.

High level employees of the Olympic Delivery Authority have been awarded prestigious Health and Safety awards.

In my view the relationship between host city and the Olympics is mirrored in nature - akin to that between host and parasite. The parasite embeds itself in a new host every 2 years (winter and summer Olympics). It sucks out £billions in resources and constructs venues that will be used for 20 or so days before moving onto its next victim. In order to persuade cities to act as hosts, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and others engaged in the Olympic industry wildly exaggerate the benefits.

Outside a Park Lane hotel during the London Games I filmed one of the many volunteer chauffeurs unloading shopping from the back of a large Olympic BMW (it’s amazing how many designer boutique carrier bags you can get into the boot of those Beamers!).

His passengers I learned were an IOC member and his wife. The 5 star Park Lane Hotel bedrooms provided to IOC members were paid for by the British tax payer. To see the actual spectacle of this parasitic behaviour in front of me was fascinating - it was blatant yet banal. The London cabbies I spoke to during this time were also upset because they felt much of their business had been taken by the volunteer chauffeurs - they reported a 50% loss of earnings.

International Olympic Committee member and wife with their chauffeur: unload shopping from one of the thousands of BMWs shipped from Germany for the "Greenest Olympics Ever"International Olympic Committee member and wife with their chauffeur: unload shopping from one of the thousands of BMWs shipped from Germany for the "Greenest Olympics Ever"

During the Olympics, we were told, London was going to be overwhelmed with people spending money - it would be a massive boost to the economy. I interviewed business owners who, like the cabbies, typically reported a 40 to 50% decline in trade during the Olympic period.

Among a staggeringly long list of benefits, the London Olympics was going to provide construction jobs, but as it turns out these went mostly to foreigners. It was also going to provide homes. The ‘Athletes Village’ has already been sold to the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund at a huge loss to the tax-payer. True some of the homes in the converted Athletes’ Village will be ‘affordable’ - affordable, that is, if you earn £80,000 or more a year.

We were told London 2012 provided a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to clean up this polluted area of East London’. What Olympic bosses don’t seem to lack is a sense of ironic humour - unless of course by clean-up they meant cleansing the area of its existing culture, historic buildings and community.

The main thrust of the Olympic sales pitch was that it was going to ‘regenerate’ an area of East London which, according to the official line, was a wasteland where nothing was happening. There was actually a lot happening there. Housing for around 1,600 people, 500 businesses employing thousands of people, and a huge mostly African church with a sunday congregation of around 10,000 were just a few of the things going on there.

I recently visited the ODA headquarters, which is not in the Olympic 'Park". As I sat in the huge marble lobby waiting for an ODA member of staff I took in the stainless steel corporate art and unsmiling important looking people in well polished shoes being sucked in and out of a vortex of rotating doors. I mused on what their jobs might be, but had the feeling if they told me I wouldn't understand. I wondered if the ODA’s choice of location said anything about the mindset of the organisation? They occupy two floors in the Barclays building at Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is to me one of the most contrived, controlled, air-conditioned and sterile places in London, with its army of private security guards sporting uniforms almost identical to the cops, who under any other circumstances would be arrested for impersonating police officers.

The one thing that Canary Wharf does have going for it (apart from virtual jobs in the financial sector) is its sense of history which is still felt in the dock basins and some of the few remaining historic buildings. But the ODA demolished virtually everything that was standing in its 2.5 square kilometre domain, leaving no tangible vestige of the area's history. Somehow of all the places in London Canary Wharf is where I would have expected the ODA to headquarter themselves. The two territories share an ideology which has been built into their aesthetic - banks bigger than churches, money more important than people, privately owned 'public space', private security, Perimeter Command Control Systems, cctv, and numerous signs telling you what you can't do- no fishing, no ball games, no cycling, photography, rollerblading, etc, and in one place no work-clothes. Both the Olympic ‘Park” and Canary Wharf are, for me, despotic McDonalds/Disney dystopias - with attached shopping malls dispensing virtual happiness - at a price. Interestingly Olympic sponsor, McDonalds', food doesn't rot. The oldest and as yet un-decomposed McDonalds' hamburgers were bought in 1989. According to Natural News ... ‘no normal animal will perceive a McDonald's hamburger bun as food ... neither will bacteria or fungi. The reason nothing will eat a McDonald's hamburger bun (except a human) is because it's not food’. Is McDonalds to food, what the Olympic 'Park' is to parks?

A friend of mine has just been on an official visit of the Post-Olympic Olympic ‘Park', she comments:

'Wow the place looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic zombie type of film.
Bleak, and the only life is machinery digging away.'

The argument that the Olympics has actually slowed down the ‘regeneration’ of the area is convincing. First, starting in 2006 they had to destroy what was originally in the area. They then had to build the things that were needed for 24 days (2012). Then they have to get rid of, or modify, those things ready for the so called legacy phase which has barely started.

Nothing happening in the pre-Olympic wasteland: actually there was a lot going on. For one the Eastway cycle circuit a one mile open track was very popular with racers who came from all over the country to compete here.Nothing happening in the pre-Olympic wasteland: actually there was a lot going on. For one the Eastway cycle circuit a one mile open track was very popular with racers who came from all over the country to compete here.

From where I’ve been spectating the benefits of London 2012 seemed to go to those high up in the Olympic industry, to an elite of corporate sponsors, and to IOC members. It looks to me pretty much like the same elite who benefit from the Free Market policies of our government.

The Games’ strap-line was - Inspire a Generation’. Inspire them to what wondered? To become inventors of corporate slogans perhaps - it’s a growth industry. Serco run the private prison I was locked up in. They are apparently ‘Bringing Service to Life’. If only I’d known that while I was there, I’d have sent down for a bottle of Chablis. And G4S, in charge of the bungled security of the London Games (and infiltrated by an undercover investigative journalist friend of mine, who reported being trained by them in ways of inflicting pain without leaving marks) are apparently ‘Securing Your World’.

Serco are: Bringing Service to LifeSerco are: Bringing Service to Life

The Environment Agency’s (strap line: ‘Creating a Better Place’) ‘comfortable’ relationship with contractors dealing with the radioactive contamination problem in the Olympic ‘Park’ made me wonder if the parasite/host model is not now also applicable between Government and its Agencies and the people it is meant to serve.

Another journalist friend of mine Andy Roberson runs the blog Social Investigations and has spent years investigating parliamentarians’ interests in health care companies. He comments:

‘The government appears to have morphed into one that serves corporations. Research during the process of the Health and Social Care bill revealed over 200 parliamentarians with recent and present financial links to companies involved in healthcare. This amounts to a corporate coup and one that goes beyond the parliamentary houses and into every bureaucratic part of the system. They write the law, employ our so-called public servants, then vote on the legislation that creates new contract possibilities for their paymasters. Democracy is a brand with money and contacts.’

I couldn’t have put it better.

My acquaintance with the Olympics has given me a learning experience money could not have bought. They say that prison is more expensive than the most exclusive private schools in the land - and, yes, prison was an education - in many ways. There I met many intelligent and likeable people, a large number of whom were aged 21 or just a bit older, who had previously been in and out of young offenders institutes before landing up, at over 21, in the slammer. They had come from less than advantaged backgrounds and one thing that struck me about many of them was that gaol didn’t seem to bother them, they appeared see it as a minor hazard of life. It occurred to me that this totally neutralised one of the alleged purposes for prison - a deterrent.

In prison I was forced to attend sessions which were going to help reform my fellow inmates and myself. The well intentioned handsome black man leading the course asked the 25 tough looking guys and me what we wanted to do when we were free men. There was a universal answer - everyone wanted a job. One guy was crestfallen when he learned that working as a security guard would not be possible owing to having a criminal record. I was surprised to see how much of an issue access to work was to these men. I had to ask myself if locking people up in a university of crime can help society? I did hear of some interesting scams. My comment - jobs not jails, but there are around 97,000 people in UK prisons, around 55,000 are remand prisoners. Remand means - in jail awaiting trial - often for months.

The prison I was banged up in is brand new - built next to two existing prisons it forms part of a prison industrial complex in South East London. The government has just announced plans to build a new ‘super prison’ capable of taking more than 2,000 prisoners, The construction of these so called Titan prisons indicate there is to be no let up in the policy of locking people up. The prison population of the UK has risen by 90% since 1993. It costs around £40,000 a year to keep a person in jail. The political alignment of the UK with the US is perhaps well demonstrated by this expansion of the both countries' policy of incarceration. The prison population of the United States has reached astonishing proportions - 2.2 million - a level of incarceration higher than anywhere else in the world. One in every 142 US citizens is in jail, while 1 out of every 32 of US citizens are either in prison or on parole from prison. This is one of the prices of socioeconomic policies which favor a small minority.

Thameside prison: (photographed from the outside)Thameside prison: (photographed from the outside)

Experiencing the way the legal system works was interesting. The outcome of a trial clearly relies on the calibre of legal representation. Especially in the lower courts I learned that the burden of proof is frequently not with the prosecution - rather with the defence. In other words a complete perversion of the supposed principle of our legal system - innocent until proven guilty - and then only if guilt can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

In my case at both bail hearings and at the trial, in the absence of any real evidence, the judge listened to, and appeared to be influenced by, the prosecution’s allegation that I was a protester. There are two things about this that are important. Firstly it would only be relevant insofar as it might indicate a person holds certain opinions, which raises the question, is the holding of opinions a crime? Secondly even if there was something wrong with being a protester and holding certain opinions, in court no actual evidence of my being a protester was presented. It was simply stated by the prosecution that I was a protester. The prosecution also attempted to discredit witnesses called by my defence claiming they were also protesters. They failed to produce any evidence of this either.

I was released on bail, but I was apparently still seen as an enemy of the Olympics and had they caught me within 100 metres of an Olympic venue I would have been sent back to the slammer. The Olympic Park has airport style security and is completely surrounded by a five thousand volt electric fence, yet I was still seen as a threat. Not even my girlfriend takes me that seriously. As a journalist with an interest in the London Olympics this restriction had serious implications for me, including loss of income.

The only way for me to appreciate the Games was therefore on the TV, and I have to acknowledge that the Olympics was a spectacular televisual event. It was good entertainment and that has value. The question is was the £24 billion price tag on that 24 day TV spectacular value for money?

Amongst many stories of austerity cuts a friend of mine, a play-worker and play-researcher, was telling me how funding for adventure playgrounds across London is being cut, causing staff layoffs and many playgrounds to close. Most of the London boroughs which hosted the Games have high indices of child deprivation and my friend’s remarks made me think of all the promises that were made to the youth of the host boroughs. Sebastian Coe went so far as to take a load of local kids to Singapore to big-up the bid. The kids were there to add credibility to the bid promise of providing facilities and resources for local youth. I have to ask myself if I can see any advantage at all to the average kid in any of the host boroughs? Actually I think the Games has had a negative impact for youth. The £24 billion is also put into context by cuts to the NHS which has to shave £20 billion off its budget by 2015.

Banquet to celebrate the inauguration of the Olympic Delivery Authority: nice work if you can get itBanquet to celebrate the inauguration of the Olympic Delivery Authority: nice work if you can get it

I was not the only one who fell victim to the authorities’ paranoia during the Olympic period. Others served short prison sentences, were threatened with the loss of their homes through libel action and court costs etc. 182 people were subjected to mass arrest on the night of the opening ceremony after cycling on the Olympic Route Network. I’m sure there were others.

There were moments of comedy in jail. One of those times was when I decided to carry our a Vox Pop and ask what the other prisoners thought about the London Olympics. The first guy I asked had a one word reply to the question - ‘shit’, he said. A compact, and minimalist analysis of London 2012 I thought, especially for a man unable to read or write. Another prisoner I put the Olympic question to said, ‘it’s great, its a brilliant thing, it will bring lots of opportunities. This is a once in a life time opportunity’, he repeated. ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity‘. ‘Hang on’ I thought, ‘that is just the sort of drivel the Olympic bullshit machine would have spewed out.’ I have to admit I felt disappointed, I was hoping for a more sophisticated analysis from my fellow prisoners. Then he clarified. ‘Yes it’s be a fantastic opportunity for thieving”. Sorry to anyone that was robbed by this guy but I did find it extremely funny, not only because it was such an unexpected answer but also because he was talking exactly like the Olympic spin doctors. He was a fascinating guy who told me how he enjoys thieving right under the noses of police, he sees it as a challenge. He told me he robs from the rich and it occurred to me he is the reverse of the London Olympics that has robbed the taxpayer to give to the Olympic fat cats and I secretly hoped he’d be out there evening the score with the IOC members staying in those swanky 5 star Park Lane Hotels.

The organisational model of London 2012 is the same our government uses to manage the nation - a foundation of compacted bullshit provides a platform on which a network of well connected vampires schmooze, positioning themselves to pick up lucrative government contracts. The mainstream mass media, up to its neck in the same compacted bullshit, almost completely fails in its duty to monitor, investigate, and inform, whilst a merry-go-round of self congratulation and industry awards is backed up with knighthoods for the worst offenders.

London - media scrum: dumbed down the media is largely failing in its duty, almost never seriously challenging the status quo, and largely failing to inform and investigateLondon - media scrum: dumbed down - the media is failing in its duty, almost never seriously challenging the status quo and by and large not informing or investigating

Closing ceremony fireworks: in nature it is said all reactions have an equal and opposite reaction. Launch a rocket upwards and there will be a downwards reaction - in this case every rocket launched, every reaction further compacting the layers of bullshit the London Olympics were built uponClosing ceremony fireworks: in nature it is said all reactions have an equal and opposite reaction. Launch a rocket upwards and there will be a downwards reaction - in this case every rocket launched, every reaction further compacting layers of bullshit

This vampire capitalism, this so called ‘free market’ ideology has spiraled the cost of a secure home out of the reach of ordinary folks, our prisons are full, and building new ones just makes more money for the well-connected. A sense of insecurity pervades most work places, and most tragically many seem pessimistic about the future. Wake up and smell the compacted bullshit - our Olympics was hijacked the same way our nation and our media has.

I would like to thank my friends who supported me while I was in jail (I love you all), thanks also my solicitor Sashy Nathan of Bindmans, and my barrister Tom Stevens of Doughty Street Chambers. I would also like to thank the police and the ODA for an education and experiences I could not have bought.

The most important thing I learned from prison - which sounds like a total cliche - is that freedom is a state of mind. The oppression of my own insecurities are the opposite of freedom, they separate me from others and therefore are a form of prison.

Link to London Takes Gold. It is an anti-properganda film, which plots the struggle of local residents to prevent the authorities building on their green space. The film was made experimentally almost entirely on a smartphone: not a device I would recommend for film-making - the image quality was ok but sound was an issue. https://vimeo.com/44519706

©Mike Wells mikejwells@yahoo.com


|