Londoners lose city as occupation begins

By Jamie Kenny Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-26 19:05:00

A taped recording by London mayor Boris Johnson has been playing on buses and at subway stations telling commuters that their journeys will become much more difficult during the games.

London's transport system cannot cope with both the city's population and the thousands of visitors. For VIPs, there are specially designated Olympic traffic lanes, created to ensure that games-related traffic can get about quickly. Anyone else driving on them gets a £130 ($201) fine. So the little people are being encouraged to get out of the way.

Londoners have responded on twitter with a simple three word hashtag. The third word is "Boris," the second word is "off" and the first word cannot be reprinted. Yet the mayor is simply a focus for more general cynicism. A reporter for the New York Times recently asked Londoners their opinion about the Games: "a complete nightmare," "a fiasco," "a disaster," "a shambles," and a "police state" were among the responses she got.

Yet it is not the Olympic Games that Londoners object to, but the Olympic occupation. There will be 20,000 soldiers on the streets of London providing security during the games, all in uniform and many armed. That's around one fifth of the entire British army. Anti-aircraft missiles have been placed on the rooftops of residential tower blocks to prevent a 9/11 style terrorist atrocity. The implication of this is that if a plane is shot down and crashes on the rest of London, then the operation will have been successful.

Private sponsors are joining in. Indeed, they have their own police force which will be patrolling the zone around the main Olympic park making sure that people are not eating the wrong kind of burgers, drinking the wrong cola or wearing the wrong running shoes. And any small business that wants to boost trade by using Olympic imagery will be in serious trouble with the brand cops.

So there are missiles on the rooftops and soldiers on the streets. Important people are whisked to and fro in special traffic lanes, while ordinary folk struggle out of tube stations hours late for their journey and are harassed by for their choice of snacks.

Spare a thought for Londoners this summer. They would like to enjoy the Olympics as much as anyone else. They just want their city back.

The author is a journalist based in the UK.


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