Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Olympic Claims

In Criminal Justice Matters No 88 (June 2012) ‘(In)security and the re-ordered Olympic city’ Pete Fussey explored issues around Olympic-related security and insecurity in advance of the Games.  Writing between the Games and the Paralympics I hope to assess some of those same issues.

First though some ‘conflict-of-interests’ confessions.  I was the external examiner on Peter’s PhD on CCTV and am very pleased to see the extent to which he has been able expand upon that work.  Also I’m a sports fan and have spent much of the past few weeks watching - live and recorded - the Olympics.  I agree with much that Peter says though I will be picking away at some aspects.  But, I’m not going to assert an ‘I-was-there’ standpointism where my experience of attending trumps his prospective theoretical position.  I went to the Olympic Park 6 times (3 Athletics, 1 Women’s Hockey, 1 Men’s Water Polo, 1 Women’s Basketball and 1 Track Cycling after another event) and the Lea Valley White Water Centre for Canoe Slalom.

Fussey picks out ‘a number of specific strategies [which] are consistently applied’: Militarisation, Privatisation, Technology and Surveillance, Physical Design and Behavioural regulation.  Whilst all might have been expected from his studies of other mega-events but the first two had a particular inconsistency in their application that might not have been anticipated.

Leading up to the Games much was made of the ‘missiles on rooftops’ but the experience of imilitarisation was in the form of actual serving members of the armed forces in the wake of the G4S security shortfall.  This even lead some commentators to eulogise them.  I can vouch for their friendly efficiency (and, like the policing of the torch relay a massive PR coup for them).  So actual militarisation trumped privatisation to the extent that 2 Govt Ministers were said to have had second thoughts about the limits of privatisation.  We shall see.

The technology and surveillance was less obvious but behind all such friendliness we find that Disney are using military strength face-recognition.  And again the physical and behavioural issues remind us of Disney.  Not only did the Olympic Park remind me of Disney but so did people’s appreciation of it.  But most had not read Clifford D. Shearing and Phillip C. Stenning’s ‘From the Panopticon to Disney World: the Development of Discipline’.  More hopeful though, are Warren’s conclusions in ‘Popular Cultural Practices in the “Postmodern City”’ that even:

Disneyland, demonstrates that contemporary urban landscapes are complicated and contradictory sites that hegemonically embed both dominant cultural and economic relations and creative resistance to them.

My derives around Stratford attempted some resistance, as does this.  But, and scandalously under-reported save on Twitter, were some more active complaints.  Thus Femen demonstrated outside City Hall against the inclusion of Islamic countries at the Olympics.  Yet I joined in the cheers for a Saudi and Palestinian woman athlete sporting ‘racing Hijabs’.

There is a dreadful irony in the success of the cycling team and the kettling of cycle born protestors on the night of the Opening Ceremony.  And further ironies in the on-screen lauding of the protests of Tommie Smith and John Carlos.  Past protests - on the right side - are seen to be acceptable.

But perhaps the best news is an unexpected Olympic legacy, of life imitating art as the suffragettes from the opening ceremony discover their feminism.

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