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Winning the Olympic Games was a great national disaster. We have reduced ourselves to a state of militaristic paranoia; the terrorists have already won

Are they really going to shoot down aircraft over London? If not, what are those Typhoon jets for?

By on Monday, 16 July 2012

The HMS Ocean heads towards Greenwich for a pre-Oympics security exercise (PA photo)

The HMS Ocean heads towards Greenwich for a pre-Oympics security exercise (PA photo)

My original intention vis-a-vis the forthcoming Olympic extravaganza was to keep quiet about my own feelings of irritation and despondency over the whole phenomenon (feelings which go back to the very moment the announcement that London had been awarded the Games was made in Singapore). I had intended to remain silent about these sentiments at least until it was all over, hoping that by then I might feel a little more in tune with the general mood.

Not, I think, that by now the mood of celebration is indeed universal, despite the obvious enthusiasm of some. “It’s already overwhelmingly exciting,” said Nicky Campbell on the Radio 5 Live breakfast show this morning (“this is the Olympic station,” says a man with one of those synthetically gravelly voices every five minutes or so; but you can’t escape the Games even on Radio 3, which insists on constantly updating its listeners about the whereabouts of the wretched Olympic torch).

But the further North you go, the less hyperexcited the mood tends to be; and there are plenty of people even in the south of England and in the capital itself who by now are beginning to feel distinctly bolshie about the whole thing. One of these is the historian David Starkey, who on Any Questions? last Saturday delivered himself of the following splendid rant (supported by about a third of his audience — Jonathan Dimbleby took a vote): “I am fed up of this national act of everybody get together, jump up and down and pretend they’re at a school camp for the Olympics. I hate forced celebration, I hate turning my capital city into a theme park. I hate Zil limousine lanes. I hate the Olympic emblem which has become a kind of plague curse on the entire city, distorting it, perverting it; and I hate the rape of Greenwich Park in which one of the noblest of parks is defaced by this monstrous erection, and I use that word deliberately, this monstrous erection for a lot of prancing horsemen and women for about five minutes to satisfy the television cameras. I won’t rejoice and I hope the whole thing is buggered.”

David Starkey was, in fact, one of the leaders of a campaign against using Greenwich Park for equestrian events, and in 2010 wrote to the Times explaining why; his reasons are relevant to more than the despoliation of Greenwich Park and I quote them for their evocation of the destructive and authoritarian mindset of the Olympic authorities and of the power they have been given over the rest of us. He vividly captures why an increasing number of people (I believe) are beginning to feel like worms who are turning, though maybe too late:

“Greenwich faces its gravest threat since the 19th century. Then it was proposed to drive a railway through the park; now, and scarcely less vandalistically, to make it the site of the 2012 Olympics equestrian events. To do so will require the lopping and pruning of trees, the removal and replacement of thousands of tons of topsoil, countless journeys by heavy lorries and soil-moving equipment, compaction of the soil by the feet of 75,000 spectators and the closure of sections of the park to the public for up to five years.

And for what? To provide a pretty TV backdrop for a few hours of an elitist minority sport – for which, incidentally, ample facilities in an equally beautiful setting already exist as near as Windsor. It will cost a fortune. And there will be no legacy whatever, apart from the likelihood of irreparable damage to the archaeology of the site and the long-term scarring of the landscape.

Local objections were ignored, in exactly the same way as those of the residents of a 17-storey tower block near the Olympic Park, who have now been told that they have no right to challenge an unprecedented decision by the army to deploy high-velocity missiles from the roof above their homes. They were told this in court in what seems to me an unpleasantly high-handed way by a certain Mr Justice Justice Haddon-Cave, who said that in his judgment, “the MoD’s voluntary engagement with the community and residents in this matter were immaculate”. He said the MoD had no duty to consult, had not promised to and that no “conspicuous unfairness” was caused by not consulting. He agreed with the MoD that a tower block was the only suitable site for missiles and the facts of the case were “not susceptible to a sensible challenge”.

The massive military involvement in the security for the Games is surely not merely disproportionate, but actually demented. The amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean has arrived at Greenwich, where she will remain until after the end of the Paralympics, acting as a helicopter landing platform and “logistics hub”.

A Navy spokesman said: “A mix of Royal Navy and Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters will be ready at short notice to launch from the ship’s flight deck to support the police by providing airborne and maritime security for the Games.” As well as HMS Ocean, RAF Typhoon jets will be stationed at RAF Northolt and Puma helicopters at a Territorial Army centre in Ilford.

Even before the extra 3,000 or so servicemen who have now to be deployed to make up for the G4S shambles, a total of 17,000 servicemen and women were involved in providing security for the Olympics, including 11,800 soldiers, 2,600 sailors and marines, and 2,600 airmen.

The whole thing is surely simply insane: all this military nonsense (costing how many billions? Does anybody really know?) is to give the illusion of security to (and here come all the personal prejudices I had sworn to keep to myself) a large number of self-confident and mostly illiterate young people running, leaping and otherwise cavorting around the Olympic Park and elsewhere (when, that is, they are not reducing London traffic to a state of gridlock). I admit, as I say, that this perception is entirely my own business, that my total inability to understand why so many people think the Olympic Games are actually important and worthwhile is my personal problem, and I do not expect anyone to endorse these feelings in any way.

The facts are, however, that by staging the Olympics we have set up a whole series of unprecedented opportunities for terrorism on a massive scale to take place with maximum publicity, and that terrorists, if they really want to (and you may be sure that they do), will always get through; furthermore, the extravagant “security” arrangements we have put in place themselves constitute new opportunities. What are those missiles on top of that tower block in Leytonstone going to be fired at, for heaven’s sake? And if they hit whatever it is, where will the debris fall, and who will it hurt? And how are those RAF Typhoon jets going to be used? Supposedly, it seems, to enforce the already imposed no-fly zone over London. But suppose an aircraft, hi-jacked or not, simply ignores the no-fly zone, ignores the Typhoon jets which will arrive alongside gesticulating wildly, and just flies on over London in the direction of the Olympic zone? Will the Typhoon jets just shoot it down? Over the most densely populated area in Europe? If not, what will they do? Are we all mad?

The fact is, and these words are not mine, but those of the eminently sensible Kate Hoey MP, an athletics enthusiast and former sports minister: “I just think,” she said yesterday, “we’re allowing the terrorists to win by changing the whole way of life of our culture.” That’s exactly right. By reducing us all to a state of fearful, militaristic, paranoid authoritarianism they have already won. Winning the Olympic Games in Singapore was a major national disaster, one we are now living through in a state of barely controlled anxiety, if not actual hysteria. Perhaps no terrorist outrage will even be attempted. It makes no difference; it won’t even be necessary. The damage is already done; our culture will have been changed in ways from which it will take years to recover.

  • Catholic Youth Work

    Fascinating stuff.

    I always thought we would have been better off not telling the public about security arrangement at all. Only problem with that is that the media would very quickly have run a ‘Government asleep on security’ piece. So, really, you can’t win!!

  • Alan

    For once I agree totally with William Oddie.  There is no doubt that most of the Olympic stories over the next few weeks will have nothing to do with the sporting events.  They will be about the security chaos, the transport chaos, and other chaoses yet to appear.  Meanwhile the politicians, the media people, and other vested interests, will be urging us to yell and bawl in support of “team GB” (why not “team UK”?).  Most of us will stifle a yawn at the events (£’000s for a ticket to see a 10-second race, anyone?) but will continue to be utterly inconvenienced.  London theatres and other attractions will have to live without my custom for a month or so, and without the custom of many thousands of others.

  • Henry Garon

    After examining all of the evidence surrounding 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings, I am thoroughly convinced that both of these events were false flag terror events that were intended to promote foreign wars  and empower this sort of police state at home.  

    Slogans like “the terrorists will have won” assume that the “terrorists” are Muslim extremists and not members of state security and/or israeli mossad. On 7/7 there was a “terror drill” in London taking place at the exact time and with the same scenario as what actually happened. What are the odds of that? The same thing happened with “terror drills” on 9/11 in the US. The “terror drill” in Washington had a plane taking off from Dulles airport and crashing into the National Reconnaissance Office at nearly the exact time that the plane crashed into the Pentagon.

    When you figure the odds on just these two facts alone, you are left with either something as improbable as a flying monkey or the much more reasonable choice that evil men within our own governments are planning acts of terror against their own people, and using terror drills as a means of providing cover in case they are found out.

    I encourage everyone with a functioning brain to investigate the facts behind the 7/7 bombings and the 9/11 attacks. You will find an endless supplies of “coincidences” and improbable things that never happened before or since. Ask yourself: Could it be possible that the governments who LIED about the Iraq War could have lied about 7/7? Could the governments who routinely torture and kill, bomb thousands of innocents with depleted uranium also have committed acts of terror against their own people? Could governments that conspire to fix the LIBOR, and that gave trillions of dollars to banks while their own treasuries were bankrupt, could these governments also work in secret to plot terror attacks?  Of course they could and they OBVIOUSLY did.

  • Denis


    We are in the grip of the terror industry and God help anyone who questions that fact. Just recently on Radio 2, yes to my shame I listen to the drivel the BBC produce, a male caller questioned the hysterical reaction to the fake cigarette on the M6 coach. Predictably he was verbally flayed in a way that would normally be reserved for a child killer. This is the way anyone brave enough to question this stupidity is treated and a warning to others to keep their mouths shut.

  • Lewispbuckingham

    Talking about antiaircraft missiles, these are not only deployed to stop terrorist attack but to deter ‘accidental’ overflights by joyriders and thrillseekers.During the Sydney Olympics, a ‘leak’ told us that the US had placed a carrier force from the Pacific fleet off the coast in case US nationals needed evacuation or medical aid.Many world leaders came and will be showcased as their teams march in.One of the guests was Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the US president.
     When it came to Sydney my family attended the Paralympics and closing ceremony of the Paralympics. It was very worthwhile.
     The problem with the Olympics is the decade after.The publicity tends to keep drones in power who, in our case did nothing for long term infrastructure building that was efficient.One reason was the construction of huge Olympic stadiums that had to be paid off and did not pay their way. Despite the mining boom, the real economy in NSW is close to recession and has been this way for six years.
     Judging from many comments on this site the UK is in a battle about all sorts of obscure “rights’ and environmental theories but is unable to support itself economically.One of the supposed spinoffs of the Olympics was a tourist boom that did not eventuate in Sydney.
     The threat is not militarism or the destruction of beautiful parks, the fait accompli, but a lack of will to build for the future by political leadership.

  • Honeybadger

    Why on earth didn’t Manchester put in a bid for the 2012 Olympics? 

    It would have stopped all this moaning and whingeing for a kick-off.

    I felt like you,William, when it was first announced that the Commonwealth Games were coming to Manchester way back when. I, too, was beleagured, fed up and cynical. I’d never known the streets so spotless or the place brightened up with flowers and by fresh paint. ‘

    ‘Why can’t it be like this all the time?’ we asked ourselves.

    However, once the baton was handed to HM The Queen, it was brilliant! My family and I got to know some of the athletes and we exchanged badges and Manchester-related stuff with them.

    The city already hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and it was a huge success – facilities  already there, including the Velodrome, the Aquatics Centre and what is now called the Etihad Stadium in Eastlands (new home to Manchester City). Our parks were used for the games, too.

    The Commonwealth Games experience brought sport to the doorsteps of many. Many successive athletes who have trained in Manchester went on to win Olympic medals, including gold.

    It showed the world that Manchester and the North CAN handle big events – not just London!

    If Manchester and not London hosted the games this year, it would have saved lots of money in the long run and the sorry state of the transport situation in Manchester would have been resolved a hell of a lot sooner.

    I love these huge sporting events and always have since I was small. I’m not keen on the commercial aspect and I think the London 2012 logo is awful. I hate the fact that it caused disruption to less-than-affluent families near the area. Why should this happen anywhere where there is a major sporting event when there is plenty of derelict space that could be used instead?

    I love watching the fruits of the hard work, sweat, dedication and commitment of the athletes.

    PS: Manchester would not have pulled the mic off Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney’s gig!

  • Aerobiotic

    I’m really surprised nobody has commented or appears to give a crap about the “facts” you mention above! I’m in Australia and I have google sending me news items on “terrorist Olympics” and I’m recieving new articles every hr on the topic. Not one Australian news program has mentioned the terrible job G4S has done and the fact that a indipendent news reporter has posed and uncovered how he has been able to pass through with pocket knives etc etc
    I believe there will be a MEGA false flag at this event, good luck to anybody living in the area during the games, I’ll be watching from Melbourne Australia shaking my head at the government for the horrible acts they will perform on the dumbed down people of Britain…
    Wake up people for humanity’s sake… PLEASE!

  • Fritz

    You guys are hilarious!

  • Aerobiotic

    Hope you get fried fritz!

  • LocutusOP

     It’s difficult to conclude that the rulers would not stage the events you mentioned for their own gains;there seems to be little if any good in them after all.

    However, could they succeed in keeping such a conspiracy secret?…Given how they fail (or seem to fail (since we don’t know their real intentions)) at everything else, I would argue that it is highly unlikely that the events you mentioned were staged by them.

    That being written, it is yet to be proved how any of the counter-measures against non-state-funded terrorism (distinguishable from their own state-funded variety only in claiming fewer victims) has made anyone – including their own citizenry – safer.

  • Lennydetroit

    It’s all very 1984.

  • Guest

     Was it like that in Los Angeles?

  • Seanward1985

    Im from Ireland and I haven’t heard one thing on British news regarding the games  them self’s , but rather the hole hype on security , its not really for me to say but I think oul England is starting to behave a little to like there American counterparts ‘ sorry but its just how we see it on our side of the sea

  • Alban

    Frankly, I’m getting terribly fed-up with hearing about all the goings-on surrounding the Olympic Games. I just hope it’s an enjoyable occasion for the athletes.

  • Aeolianharpist

    With you all the way, Honeybadger. Sadly, the Olympic Committee let it be known that no GB bid, other than one from London, had any chance of being successful.

  • Honeybadger

    It is sad that no other GB city, apart from London, would have a cat-in-hell’s chance of hosting the Olympics.

    It’s pathetic, when you think about it.

    What I forgot to mention in my post (considering the emphasis on terrorism etc. etc. etc.) is that Manchester staged the Commonwealth Games in 2002 6 YEARS after the IRA bombed the city(where there were people scarred for life mentally and physically but no-one was killed) and 1 YEAR after 9/11.

  • rjt1

    I’m so apathetic, I (almost) can’t be bothered to comment, apart from this comment….zzzz

  • Adrianbrighton

    At least if the military are deployed in place of the missing security staff, they will doubtlessly be a) more efficient, b) more polite and c) more cheerful than the people they are replacing. If it is an alternative to barracks duties (as opposed to being called back from leave) they may even enjoy themselves. If anyone can make a good impression on visitors to this shambolic country, the Armed Forces can.
    On the wider point, the whole concept was a mistake, a horrible Blair exercise in self-aggrandisement. I do not know how much of the Forces deployment on anti-terrorist activity is simply tweaking a routine so that it is focused on London or how much it is  extra work; what is obvious, as someone else has hinted at, is that security is something best done without publicity: how many times have RN vessels been ‘engaged in routine exercises’ not far from potential hotspots? 

  • Ronk

    ”  “team GB” (why not “team UK”?)”
    Because there is no such thing as  a team representing the United Kingdom. The team represents Great Britain. Athletes from the north-eastern part of Ireland who compete in the Olympics do so as part of “Team Ireland” – as with all other international sporting events.