Post-script: Unfortunately we were unable to get this publication out in time for the Olympics. However, we felt that to change the text to the past tense would mean a loss in its original flow.
Bread and circus was a political strategy created by the Roman Empire to prevent the population from revolting against those in power. The emperor would supply games and free bread to pacify the people. Being fed and having fun would ease their reasons to revolt….
Times have changed but not the rulers policies. This year, London is the stage of another social experiment under the facade of the Olympics; a distraction to placate as well as an operation to control and repress.
Spectacular events like the Olympics cannot be isolated. They exist beyond their physical spheres and time frame. They are used as a social experiment in which infrastructure and equipment are developed, knowledge built upon and personnel trained.
So far the budget for the games has quadrupled from the initial estimate of £2.4 billion. It now stands at £10 billion and there is some in reserve in case this amount is exceeded. This package includes £6bn from the government, nearly £2 billion from the Mayor of London and around £2 billion from the National Lottery(1). Alongside the things one might expect The Olympic Committee to designate these funds, such as building and renovating Olympic related infrastructures, the Mayor has added that the money will go towards “the legacy that will follow the games”. From this package more than £1 billion is to enforce security(2).
The UK’s leaders want to show the world that the riots from last year were just a smear on their country’s history. By doing so, they openly undermine their carefully orchestrated and managed ‘crisis’(3) by spending billions of pounds at a time while we are convinced to work more for less.
As the security measures indicate, dissent will be repressed by force, backed up by an apparatus of new legal measures and physical mechanisms promoted to us as: ‘for your own protection’.
These mechanisms include: a new range of scanners, biometric ID cards (for workers and staff), unmanned drones equipped with high-definition cameras and thermal imaging equipment, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, sonic weapons that disperse crowds by creating “head-splitting pain”, disease tracking systems and new police checkpoints. The aim of this social experiment is to spread these technologies honed in places such as Gaza, Kabul and Baghdad during wars and moments of counterinsurgency.
This is also the UK’s largest and most expensive military operation since World War II. As well as 10,000 police, and 23,700 security members, 13,500 troops(4) will be on the streets. An aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames, a Boeing surveillance and communications aircraft will patrol the skies, surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment buildings (without permission of the residents(5)), a thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol the Olympic zone. This zone will be separated from the rest of the city by an 11 mile, £80m, 5,000 volt electric fence.
“Beyond these security spectaculars, more stealthy changes are underway. New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. They also allow Olympic security personnel to deal forcibly with the display of any commercial material that is deemed to challenge the complete management of London as a clean city…” – Stephen Graham – Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle University.
The Crown Prosecution Service has said that it was learning from last year’s riots. Offenders are set to be categorised administratively under a specially defined “Olympic offense” depending on where they commit a crime, if the ‘victim’ is related in any way to the Olympics and if the offense happens between May 1st and September 30th. Courts will sit for longer and “live-link” hearings will be used, justified by the potential for traffic disruption slowing the court system.
After the riots and now during the Olympics, new terminology has been attributed to offenses that already existed. State prosecution has used the method of creating categories, such as ‘Olympic offenses’, to justify extraordinary punishments. Offenses are no longer treated as individual incidents but as part of a spectacular moment. The mass media has reinforced this concept, directing public opinion towards the support of these measures. The result of this process is twofold; the sentences become justified by the title of the offense, and, the state of exception (extraordinary punishments, military personnel and equipment on the streets, increased private security, etc.) becomes normalised.
So it is clear that the least important aspect of the Olympics is what goes inside the arena. They are an important opportunity to cement the security boom still further.
The Olympics are of the ultimate global security shop window through which corporations can advertise their latest hi-tech wares to burgeoning global markets while making massive profits.(6)
Under the flag of “peace, friendship and respect”, the sponsors, partners and suppliers make all the repressive security measures possible. It is not by coincidence that everywhere the flame of the Olympics goes there are people who fight against it.
They fight against the irreversible destruction made in their areas. They fight against enormous expenses at their cost. They fight for air, space and freedom. They fight for the end of Bread and Circuses.
(3) The rationale of such an ‘economic crisis’ is foreign to us. We understand the concept of crisis, as used by politicians, to be a strategy or a tool that maintains the capitalist system: “It is necessary to realise that capitalism thrives on crisis. Its order is an order of crisis management. For the rulers of the social order this is not a problem. They are well protected from the consequences of the crisis that they sometimes quite intentionally induce. Those at the bottom, those who have been excluded from any real control over the circumstances in which they live, suffer the consequences of this system.” – Wolfi Landstreicher