Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Security Theater at the London Olympics

Listen, I know that a parliamentary government system is just naturally more efficient, but seriously, London's ability to pack every bad idea from George W. Bush's "Global War on Terror" into the two weeks of the Olympics is just breath taking. Let's go over what we've seen so far:

1) There's going to be a "fast track" court system for Olympic-related violations. Right, because what we really need to value is speed over accuracy when it comes to criminal punishment.

2) Anti-Aircraft guns in London parks!

3) And on top of flats!

4) 18,200 British troops providing security!

5) A private security firm- complete with bureaucratic inertia- contracted to do security. The wonders of the private sector!

6) An aircraft carrier in the Thames! Unmanned drones! RAF fighters squadrons!

7) Somehow, even more body scanners, license plate readers, and CCTV!

8) "Brand Protection Teams" patrolling the streets, making sure no one says the word "Olympics" incorrectly. I can't wait for the TV show.

9) Broad and ill-defined new police powers!

10) Threats to public protests!

And absolutely no sign that the new measures will be dismantled after the games are over (though, presumably, the troops will be sent somewhere besides an empty stadium).

On the plus side, Danny Boyle is directing the Opening Ceremony and has "leaked" this playlist. I'm actually legitimately excited about that.

It's one thing, like I said, in George Bush's War on Terror. But it's quite another at the fucking OLYMPICS, which are supposed to be all about peace and harmony, respectful competition, dignity and respect, and the international community coming together just to enjoy playing games together. That was always more marketing than reality, of course, but it feels like the Olympics used to work a little harder to protect that image. Then again, now they've got Brand Protection Teams, so maybe it's a wash.

Because, at some point, as Blog Blogger Mike said to me, the terrorists win either way. Either they blow something up, or the trick us into wrapping it in so much barbed wire and Kevlar that we can't enjoy it. Either way, whatever made the thing special is destroyed, and we're cowering in fear.

The worst part is, I genuinely love the Olympics. I love the ceremony, the weird sports, the athletes I'll forget in three months, the foreign locales and yes, even the "brotherhood of man" canard. Even if it's just a marketing ploy, well, I'm happy that the IOC thinks "brotherhood of man" is a marketable slogan. But there is an awful lot of bullshit to put up with at the Olympics- I know how big a pain it can be for the host city (I was in London last month, trust me, I noticed). I know the rampant corruption at the IOC. I know about the empty pageantry, the soft-focus Bob Costas documentaries, and the outrageous price tags. And I love it all anyway.

But you keep stacking crap on top of it- and all the hits from the darkest days of the mid-2000s is about as crappy as it gets- and I start to see the cynics' point. Don't get me wrong, I'll still watch. But this is disappointing.

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