Exorbitant security force dampens London 2012 fever

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 15, 2012
Adjust font size:

The Olympic rings are unveiled on London's Tower Bridge in east London, Britain on June 27, 2012. The 25 meters wide and 11.5 meters tall Olympic rings were unveiled to mark one month to go until the start of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. [Xinhua]

From giant Olympic rings hanging off Tower Bridge, to cabbies chatting enthusiastically about how busy they'll be in the coming weeks, if you are in London at the moment you cannot help getting wrapped up in all the pre-2012 Olympic Games hype. However, amidst the air of exhilaration, there is an underlying atmosphere of apprehension, stemmed primarily from the climate of military oppression in the capital.

With the chilling memories of 7/7 London bombings of 2005, which left 52 people dead and more than 700 injured, still present in the minds of many Londoners, and with some 700,000 visitors expected to arrive in London during the Olympics, stringent security measures undoubtedly will be in place. However, I cannot help but feel that London's battle to thwart unwanted disturbances during the Games borders on paranoia.

You don't even need to live in London to be aware of the huge security effort that the capital has been subjected to during the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. During my last visit to the capital I could not miss the flock of fighter jets roaring overhead, just a few feet above the buildings. The military jets were closely followed by helicopters hovering above the Houses of Parliament, all part of, we were told, a nine-day military security exercise for the Olympics, in preparation for the UK's biggest peacetime security operation.

From fighter jets flying low above the city to amphibious assault ships and military exercises slurring the normally peaceful waters of the River Thames, the deployment of an assortment of offensive weaponry for the 2012 Olympic Games has led to controversy and opposition.

During my latest visit to the capital, reports were emerging that throughout the Games the military will be armed with crowd dispersing sonic devices that can generate noise of up to 150 decibels, which can cause physical pain to humans. Further controversy was ignited when plans were announced that surface-to-air missiles are to be placed on top of residential buildings close to the Olympic Park in East London.

There has been growing concern in London that the Muslim communities in the capital will face unfair discrimination by counterterrorism authorities during the Olympics. In wake of these fears, the government's terrorism watchdog has warned the London police that they must have "reasonable suspicion" before making any arrests.

In an interview in the "Muslim News", David Anderson, the British government's reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he would be "watching like a hawk" to ensure positions of power are not abused during the Olympic Games.

"We have a lot of people in intelligence agencies manning their desks, having their leave cancelled and no doubt there will be a temptation for people to use that time as the Olympics become closer, to arrest people. There is a possibility that people will get worried and they will resort to power of arrest," said Anderson.

With the extreme military presence looming over the 2012 Olympic Games, I worry all the paranoia may cause this year's Games to be memorable, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/gabriellepickard.htm

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter