Cleansing and clampdown

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Notably absent from the more recent hype around London 2012 is any reference to the "Olympic legacy" so loudly promised us in the first few years.

On submitting the bid in 2005, Ken Livingstone said that it would provide the regeneration and affordable housing east London so desperately needed. Instead the main impact of the event will be for yet more Londoners to be priced out of their homes.

The Games in Barcelona, Athens and especially Beijing saw entire neighbourhoods evicted. Newham council is doing the same to residents on the Carpenters housing estate. But the British version of social cleansing relies less on brute force.

Newham's hated mayor is using the Tory housing benefit cap as a means to deport 500 of the borough's poorest families 160 miles away to Stoke-on-Trent. In Stratford, the area closest to the Olympics, local rents have increased by up to 20 percent, accelerating the pressure on many Londoners to settle further away from the city centre.

Your feature (The Politics of the Olympics, Socialist Review, May 2012) is also right to focus on the massive security operation. 13,500 British troops will be deployed - more than currently in Afghanistan - in the biggest mobilisation of military force in the UK since the Second World War. The University of East London will shut down to make way for 1,000 armed US agents. The final number of security forces and spooks may reach almost 50,000.

London, notorious for its intensive surveillance, is being wired up with a bewildering array of new security systems, many of which will be permanent. The London Olympic Games Act, passed by the Blair government in 2006, legitimises the use of force by private security companies against any protests or branding deemed offensive to the corporate sponsors.

Perhaps most disgusting of all are the "Games lanes" on London's main roads, which will be exclusively reserved for officials, dignitaries and assorted fat cats. Ordinary Londoners, meanwhile, are being told to expect unprecedented congestion in a transport network already long famed for delays and gridlock.

With costs continuing to escalate, these Olympics symbolise the neoliberal era perfectly: ramped-up state repression, a circus of corporate criminals, and a medals table reflecting and celebrating the imperialist pecking order.
For a few days many millions of workers will enjoy the spectacle of seeing the best athletes compete in our favourite sporting disciplines. The most meaningful human achievements, however, have not been based on individual competition but on collective solidarity and cooperation. They involve a different kind of struggle too, in which these same millions are not passive spectators but active participants.

Roddy Slorach
East London