Protests greet Olympic showcase of normalisation and corporate privilege


It was as if our streets were paved in gold as the Olympic torch made its way across this bright new shiny Northern Ireland. We listened to  our local business leaders and political class lining up to praise this symbol of hope and reconciliation, but beneath this spectacle of spin and ‘regeneration’ smokescreen is a showcase of corporate class privilege and profiteering.

The reality is that it is much more than just a competition, it is about promoting a vision of neo-liberalism by arrogant elite of politicians and millionaires. A showcase of corporate and state power in which 2 million free tickets are given to the rich, where roads are turned into exclusive highways for VIPs, public spaces are militarised, police harassment increases and ground to air missiles appear on rooftops.  All this goes hand and hand with a brutal austerity agenda including the cutting of welfare and privatising the NHS.

Like their masters in London, our local rulers have also been keen to use any international event  from the Diamond Jubilee to the forthcoming Irish Open to highlight that we are content and open to business.  Doing so involves the sidelining and suppression of any discontent such as the protests last week in Derry over police harassment and housing protest in North Belfast over the sectarian carve-up at Girdwood former MOD site.

Far from turning the spotlight on any human rights issues, spectacles such the Olympics and Euro 2012 help to foster and strengthen nationalism and xenophobia providing perfect excuse for Governments to co-opt and remove any dissent while presenting an image of normality. There was little justice for the estimated 100 construction workers who were killed preparing for the 2004 Athens Olympics or the thousands forcibly displaced in China and elsewhere under the mantra of regenerating communities.  You can also be safely assured that Euro 2012 will be the last thing on the mind of the estimated 160,000 homeless children in cities across Ukraine bearing the brunt of cuts in social spending.

While we all may have been settling down to watch the opening of Euro 2012 in Warsaw on Friday comrades from the Polish syndicalist group and Tenants Defence Committee organised a protest under the banner of ‘We want housing- not spectacles.’ Pointing out that ‘at the same time that Poland is spending a lot of money on games, children will go hungry as the city privatizes school cafeterias, makes cut in social services and raises the price on everything.’(1)

Spectacles may come and go dressed in a propaganda blitz that would make Joseph Goebbels proud, but we need to use the opportunity to organise and agitate, to throw a spanner in the works and make sure the elite are not simply left to wine and dine in the luxury of wealth and privilege. The Queen a waits….