London braces for the Olympic War

On Tuesday, as reported by The Guardian, residents at the 17-storey Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, East London, near the Olympic Park, lost a court battle to prevent the government from planting surface-to-air missiles on the roof of their apartment block during the Olympics.

The tenants fear that the missile base above their heads could make them the target for a terrorist attack.

They argued that there has been a “disproportionate interference” with their human rights, and they were not consulted fairly and properly over the positioning of the air defense system.

Judge Charles Haddon-Cave ruled that the residents did not have an arguable case and had been under “something of a misapprehension” about the risks the deployment of the missiles would bring.

“It is clearly necessary to protect the Olympic Park from potential terrorist attack both from the air and the ground,” he said. “The first duty of government is to defend the realm and to protect national security, including by protecting the public from terrorist attack.”

Judge Haddon-Cave added that the UK Ministry of Defence had no duty to consult, had not promised to, and no “conspicuous unfairness” was caused by not consulting the residents.

The MOD welcomed the decision, saying the missiles were “an essential part of the multi-layered air security plan”. A spokesman for the ministry noted, “We have always said we are planning for the worst-case scenario, not the most likely scenario.”

Fred Wigg Tower is one of six sites where missiles will be stationed from mid-July until the end of the Olympics, which start on July 25 and end on August 12. Also, according to AFP, other steps being taken to protect the Olympics include mooring a helicopter carrier in the River Thames and stationing RAF Typhoon jets and Puma helicopters on the outskirts of London.

Britain’s biggest-ever peacetime security force of more than 40,000 – backed by a huge intelligence operation – will also guard venues, athletes, and the millions of visitors expected to throng the British capital.

A terrorist threat is not the only problem causing concern for the organizers. This summer has been one of the wettest, and many Olympic events have to be held in the open air, including hockey in the Olympic Park, beach volleyball on Horse Guard’s Parade, and the show-jumping arena in Greenwich Park.

Even the main stadium, which has a capacity of 80,000, is only two-thirds covered by a roof.

So organizers are already considering how and where some of the events during the Olympics can be rescheduled. The Guardian reported that event organizers in Hyde Park have already been forced on Tuesday to cancel a major concert with just 24 hours notice after the muddy site was declared unfit for use.

In fact, the whole story forces one to ask a very unpleasant question: if things like terrorist threat and bad weather could be well predicted beforehand, why had London authorities been so eager to hold the Games in their city for the total inconvenience of its inhabitants and athletes?

The current paranoia is just a consequence of the usual greed surrounding such widely publicized events. Against such a background, an article written by playwright and columnist David Macaray and published on Tuesday in The Huffington Post is very characteristic.

Macaray argues that when the first modern-type Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896, it was “a graceful, modest undertaking”, and “the goal of the Olympics was, originally, to promote goodwill, harmony, and greater understanding through competition.

The idea was to remove the politics and self-interests, remove the prejudices and social barriers, put aside the bad blood and adversarial histories, and allow the nations of the world to create the kind of mutual respect and understanding that can only be produced via contests of pure athleticism.”

This is no longer the case. Now, the author argues that “the Olympics have become a bloated, gaudy, over-hyped anachronism,” and asks “Should we abolish the Olympics?”

He may be wrong in his general assertion of modern Olympics, but the paranoia demonstrated by the British Ministry of Defence and other agencies related to the organization of 2012 Olympics forces one to suspect that there may be a rationale in David Macaray’s argument.


Sources and more information:

Judge rejects bid to stop Olympic rooftop missiles

Alarmed residents have lost their High Court battle to prevent surface-to-air missiles being stationed on the roof of a 17-storey residential tower block during the Olympics. A judge ruled today residents at the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, did not have an arguable case. The tenants fear the missile base above their heads could…

London braces for the Olympic War