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The Surveillance Olympics

Britain may not win many gold medals in the Olympics but we can be sure of one top place on the podium, in surveillance. For some time Britain has been outperforming other nations in the number of surveillance cameras that are trained on its own citizens. The 2012 Olympics will provide an excellent opportunity to further advance our claims as the all time best performer in this field.

In addition to achieving gold in the field of CCTV competition authorities of all kinds are practising using anti-terrorism legislation for a range of novel terrorism prevention exercises, such as checking on parents who are suspected of cheating to get their children places in the school of their preference, in their efforts to ensure further gold medal performances in their own field of surveillance.

Games Monitor recently held a conference with a group of planners, Planners Network UK. It was openly advertised on this website and in relevant planning circles and open to all and sundry. The first part of the event was a talk and film show at Limehouse Town Hall featuring Iain Sinclair and Bill Parry-Davies, both well known for their interest and concern about planning decisions and chicanery in East London. This was followed by a film about the impact of the forthcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

While this first part was under way two police officers turned up. They had been directed to visit us by the Olympic Intelligence Unit, which wanted to know what was going on. I have never heard of this wing of the Intelligence industry and while it is to be expected security will be a major issue in 2012 it seems they are making an early start in their pursuit of surveillance medals.

The next day the conference moved to a church hall for a set of workshops and discussions on the Olympic planning process. This included a discussion around the experiences of those who had attempted to present objections to the Olympic planning applications and the compulsory purchase inquiry as well as some visual presentations.

As we were seated in an upstairs room some of those present became aware that we were being watched by someone in a police type of uniform who was peering through the window in the door. She turned out to be a community support officer sent to check out our connections with people who had been involved in opposing and protesting at recent planning decisions to build a bus station and tower block in Dalston.

Anti-terrorism legislation has been used to stop people, particularly those carrying cameras, in the vicinity of the Olympic Park. A photographer was threatened with the Official Secrets Act when he tried to photograph a joint police/SAS exercise being carried out in one of the tower blocks next to the Clays Lane estate, when residents were woken up at 6.0am by the sound of stun grenades and blank ammunition being let off.

Well, if you are a community in the process of being evicted for the Olympics living next to an estate already rendered derelict by the Olympic authorities what can you expect? Certainly our GLA ‘representative’ John Biggs thought it was all pretty reasonable. But then he always did enjoy cracking jokes at our expense in the meetings he attended!

As we are constantly reminded, when standing around waiting for trains or tubes, we are being watched for our own security and protection. If you’ve got nothing to hide, so they say, you’ve got no reason to be afraid. But then I guess it’s also true that if you’re not trying to hide anything you have to wonder why they are bothering to look so closely.

The Olympics will give the whole security and intelligence industry a massive boost both in terms of spending and the use of their powers and will provide all kinds of strange justifications for peering into people’s lives. Interestingly one of our new Mayor's three priorities for the Olympics is to 'To work with the security services to ensure that London is prepared for and properly protected during the Olympics.' Mr Livingstone thought the allotments could be infiltrated by Al Qaeda terrorists. Now it looks like planning is the new terror front line!


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