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In 2004, typographical troublemaker Jonathan Barnbrook updated the Olympic pictographs to account for the unsavoury realities of the modern Olympics, from rampant commercialism to restrictions on civil liberties. Now, Barnbrook has updated his pictograms for the 2012 Olympics, producing Olympukes 2012:
Because it was in London, where I live, a place I love. So the issues we discussed in the first Olympukes are even more keenly felt by us because it affects us so directly. There are so many issues surrounding the Olympics – about what has happened to the communities where the games are being held, the draconian restrictions because of every atom of it has been defined by sponsorship, and as a graphic designer the missed chance of the logo and the ignoring of the wealth of talent in graphic design for commissions such as the Olympic posters. The original idea of Olympukes was prompted by the almost religious treatment of the Olympic pictograms by designers. There was a time when it was one of the top jobs in design, where it was felt it could unify the human spirit. Now rather than being at the forefront of design in interpretation and concept it has become a cynical marketing exercise. I also think the idea of speaking to all nations a bit of a redundant concept. The world has fragmented; we now celebrate difference. Our idea of the pictogram as a transparent vehicle for communicating and idea also feels rather dated, the classic pictograms are loaded with western assumptions about the structure of society from the role gender to the material objects people own. This project clearly uses these to formulate an opinion which I think is a least more honest.Olympukes 2012 is free for non-commercial use from FontShop.
And so the occupation of London begins:
Driving around London on the first day of what might be termed a ‘roads lockdown’ gave me an excellent impression of that it might be like to live in a once-proud city that had suddenly come under the heel of a foreign invader, or perhaps some home-grown unelected, unaccountable political elite that had chosen to arrogate such power unto itself that ordinary citizens were no longer able to use the roads that they have bought and paid for with their taxes.As well as demanding Soviet-style ZIL lanes (sorry, “Games lanes”) for the Olympic elite (dubbed, in sinisterly Orwellian fashion, the “Games Family”), inflicting considerable congestion and inconvenience on the little people who merely have to live and work in the occupied city, the occupying forces seem none too happy with London's tradition of street art, and have vowed to sanitise the city, making it a clean blank canvas for advertising:
This attack on one of contemporary London's most renowned traditions reveals how deeply uncomfortable the cultural relationship between this city and the Olympics really is. An event that is all about massive finance, colossal scale, hyper-organisation and culture delivered from above is being superimposed on a capital that happens to be best at improvisation, dirty realism, punk aesthetics and low art. It's like Versailles versus the sans-culottes. And this time Versailles is determined to win.
This city has never been about absolutist grandeur or spectacular architectural spaces. The total control of Rome by the popes, that produced Bernini's staggering colonnades that encircle the piazza of St. Peter's, or the absolute ancient regime followed by Napoleonic imperium that gave Paris the Louvre, had no equivalent in London when it was growing in the 18th century into a world city. Instead of state projects, the look of London was defined by competing commercial enterprises. The posh end of the market that created beauties like the Adam brothers' Adelphi Terrace competed with a low, scabrous, popular culture.The Olympic Occupation hasn't (yet) extended to censorship of the internet (though undoubtedly the IOC are working on the provisions for the next passing of the poisoned chalice), so protest and criticism continues online. Banksy's website has a few photographs of pieces with an anti-Olympic theme (though their location is not known; they could well be in Bristol or Berlin or somewhere). And then there's Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs.
A piece on the Olympic “Brand Exclusion Zone”, a quasi-totalitarian construct passed into English law at the diktat of the International Olympic Committee, and sweeping aside rights of free expression and association in order to protect the primacy of Olympic sponsors' brand names and logos:
The most carefully policed Brand Exclusion Zone will be around the Olympic Park, and extend up to 1km beyond its perimeter, for up to 35 days. Within this area, officially called an Advertising and Street Trade Restrictions venue restriction zone, no advertising for brands designated as competing with those of the official Olympic sponsors will be allowed. (Originally, as detailed here, only official sponsors were allowed to advertise, but leftover sites are now available). This will be supported by preventing spectators from wearing clothing prominently displaying competing brands, or from entering the exclusion zone with unofficial snack and beverage choices. Within the Zone, the world's biggest McDonald's will be the only branded food outlet, and Visa will be the only payment card accepted.The restrictions on what people entering, leaving or having the fortune to reside in the Olympic zone wear or carry on their person are supposedly to prevent rival brands from playing “ambush marketing” stunts, such as sponsoring covert flash mobs of people dressed in their logo colours. It is not clear whether a bunch of people wearing Chicken Cottage T-shirts would impair McDonalds' image, though it seems that Olympic sponsors insult easily, and when offered the full might of the state and extraordinary police powers to do so, are willing to jump at the offer.
And it's not just London. All the venues for the 2012 Olympics will be on brand lockdown. In Coventry, even the roadsigns will be changed so that there is no reference to the Ricoh Arena, which is hosting matches in the football tournament. Even logos on hand dryers in the toilets are being covered up. The Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle will have to revert back to St. James Park for the duration of the Olympics.It would be amusing if it didn't trample on the rights of free expression and free association. In a free society, one might argue that there are certain extreme contingencies when the usual freedoms need to be temporarily suspended for the common good. That it may be justifiable to do so to soothe the tender egos of a multinational corporations' marketing departments at a sporting event is a considerably more dubious proposition.
Meanwhile, the (London) Metropolitan Police, who were escorting the Olympic torch rally through Cornwall, seized a Cornish flag carried by a torch-bearer, on the grounds that it was a “political statement”.
And as ominous as the Olympic mascots are (they're essentially anthropomorphised surveillance cameras, executed in a hip-hop aerosol-art fashion, sublimating the appropriation of the superficial aspects of underground/“street” culture into an architecture of surveillance and control and subtly, or not so subtly, alluding to London's heritage as a world leader in CCTV coverage), some pieces of official merchandise are more ominous than others; take the mascot in a policeman's costume. It's not clear whether the Orwellian connotations are unintended or whether they're a deliberate acknowledgement of London's status as a model panopticon. After all, there will be a lot of foreign dignitaries at the Olympics, some from countries with, shall we say, more fraught internal situations than others, and if the Olympics go smoothly, with no evident dissent and no obvious sign of dissent being heavy-handedly crushed, this could result in a lot of sales by British security technology vendors.
The Olympics are nigh upon London, and their shadow falls heavily over the people of the capital. The stadiums are going up in the East End and the unsightly poor are being cleansed to make way for residents with more disposable income. Further afield, signs of the mass spectacle are appearing all over London, as if dropped from Mount Olympus itself by the gods to the grateful mortals below. (The mortals are grateful and in good cheer because that is the law, and the penalties, both civil and criminal, for being off-message have been subtly explained; these Olympics are, ultimately, a very understatedly British take on the totalitarian mass spectacle that the modern Olympics' Fascist originators had in mind—not so much the iron fist in the velvet glove, as the iron fist in a glove of brightly coloured, vaguely hip-hop-styled plastic foam, shipped by the containerload from China.)
Now, it has emerged that the Ministry of Defence will be billeting surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of apartment buildings in East London; one journalist who lives in the area received a leaflet notifying him of this; the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it is considering missile deployments.
Having surface-to-air missiles deployed to defend an urban environment is a somewhat sketchy proposition at best; should the missiles be fired, whatever they shoot down will cause a lot of damage when it hits the ground (and if they miss, they themselves will cause some damage). The Whitehouse, famously, has a SAM battery on the roof (Dick Cheney reportedly ordered it as a red-meat-conservative replacement for Bill Clinton's unacceptably liberal solar cells); the implicit message being that the lives of those inside the Whitehouse are worth trading the lives of those around it for. Whether this reasoning transfers from the Commander-in-Chief of the Free World to a stadium full of spectators at a corporate promotional event is another question. (The Queen, the head of state of Britain, does not have a SAM battery defending Buckingham Palace and threatening to send any rogue aircraft down in flames onto the posh digs of Belgravia.) Meanwhile, Charlie Stross extrapolates on the possible unintended consequences:
Hmm. It's a good thing I'm a novelist who dabbles in technothrillers, not a terrorist. If I was a terrorist I'd be licking my lips, trying to work out how to trigger a missile launch. Using a motor-powered model aircraft, free flight design (no radio controls to jam) aimed vaguely towards the Olympic stadium, with a nice radio beacon or some sort of infra-red source (a flare, perhaps) on its tail to make it easy to track? These missiles will be the close-in option, because we know the RAF will already be flying combat air patrols over London; they won't have much time to evaluate threats or respond intelligently. So launch from the back of a panel van, like the IRA mortar attacks on places like Heathrow or 10 Downing Street. The twist in the scheme would be to aim past the missile launchers along a vector that would attract a hail of hypervelocity missile launches in the direction of, say, a DLR station at rush hour.Meanwhile, Stephen Graham (professor of cities and society at Newcastle University, and author of Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism) has an article on the security lockdown being imposed on London for the Olympics, much of it to protect the brand image of corporate sponsors:
Beyond these security spectaculars, more stealthy changes are underway. New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. They also allow Olympic security personnel to deal forcibly with the display of any commercial material that is deemed to challenge the complete management of London as a "clean city" to be branded for the global TV audience wholly by prime corporate sponsors (including McDonald's, Visa and Dow Chemical).
The final point is how the security operations of Olympics have major long-term legacies for their host cities and nations. The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested – especially in democracies. These often work to "purify" or "cleanse" diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as "waste" or "derelict" spaces to be transformed by mysterious "trickle-down effects". The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. To make way for the Beijing Games, 1.5 million were evicted; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.
Looking at these various points together shows one thing: contemporary Olympics are society on steroids. They exaggerate wider trends. Far removed from their notional or founding ideals, these events dramatically embody changes in the wider world: fast-increasing inequality, growing corporate power, the rise of the homeland security complex, and the shift toward much more authoritarian styles of governance utterly obsessed by the global gaze and prestige of media spectacles.The permanent legacy of the authoritarian measures in the Olympic enabling laws mandated by the IOC cannot be emphasised enough; in Sydney, for example, restrictions on civil liberties passed for the 2000 Olympics were used, years later, to crack down on protests against the Catholic Church's “World Youth Day”, and remain on the books to this day.
And some are saying that the levels of brand policing, imposing criminal sanctions on the display of non-sponsor logos (to say nothing of political protests) within an Olympic zone and severely restricting the use of words such as “London” and “2012” by non-sponsors, will have an adverse effect on the alleged economic benefits of the Olympics, which are touted as much much of the rationale for putting up with all this in the first place.
Finally, Charlie Brooker weighs in:
Oral-B's official Olympic toothbrush exists because its parent company, Procter & Gamble, has a sponsorship deal enabling it to associate all its products with the Games. That's why if you look up Viakal limescale remover on a supermarket website, the famous five interlocking rings pop up alongside it. This in no way cheapens the Olympic emblem, which traditionally symbolises global unity, peaceful competition and gleaming stainless steel shower baskets.
One thing which has been demonstrated over recent years is that, in any city chosen to host the Olympics, the blessing of the International Olympic Committee is invariably followed by sweeping restrictions on the rights and liberties of the "little people" who live there, at least as far as their activities might plausibly impinge on corporate sponsors' right to make a profit. Unsurprisingly, London is no exception, and the latest group to find themselves an inconvenience to the Olympic powers are the people who live on houseboats along London's canals, who will now be moved on under new regulations:
Under the new proposals, people using a continuous cruising licence would not be allowed to spend more than 61 days in a year in each of six designated neighbourhoods across 40 miles of canal network, and they would be forced to move to a different neighbourhood every 14 days.
The canal boat residents fear they will be forced from the river if the proposals go ahead as drafted. Alice Wellbeloved, a freelance fashion designer, who has lived on the Lea for almost five years with her partner and baby, said the plan meant it was no longer feasible to live the family life they had built together. "For us it would be disastrous," she said. "We have a 10-month-old baby, and these proposals mean we could not work or get the childcare we need. We cannot afford to buy a new house. We feel we are being uprooted from our community."There is a page against the proposals here.
Details have emerged of the suspensions of civil liberties to be brought in for the 2012 Olympics in London, and even by the standards of New Labour Britain, they are severe. Police will have the power to enter private homes and seize posters (so no putting a "Free Tibet" poster on your window then) and, to keep sponsors placated, will prevent the public from carrying "non-sponsor items" to sporting events. Not sure if it'll apply just inside stadia or inside an "Olympic Zone" of London as in Sydney in 2000, so if, say, KFC are a sponsor, whether it'll be an offense to be seen eating a box of Sheriff Sam's Al-Halal Texas Fried Chicken ("Tender and Tasty!") in the streets of Stratford. Or, indeed, whether the laws will stay on the books afterward, to be brought out when expedient (as happened in Sydney, where Olympic laws were later used to suppress protests against the Catholic Church's "World Youth Day").
Given that the Olympics are a merchandising exercise which invariably involves notionally liberal states bending over to placate corporate sponsors by suspending civil liberties, perhaps it would be better if future Olympics were held only in totalitarian states, where the legal frameworks are already in place. Pyongyang 2016 perhaps? I hear the North Koreans put on a killer show...
Rio de Janeiro has won the 2016 Olympics. Our condolences to the Brazilian people; to the poor people who will undoubtedly be forcibly removed to make room, and everybody else who will have to endure the inevitable Olympic-related expenses and suspensions of civil liberties where such impinge on sponsors' profits.
Chicago was the favourite for the Olympics, but was eliminated first, getting only 18 of the 94 votes. Sime are speculating that this was partly due to heavy-handed passport control procedures brought in during the Bush administration:
Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”
International travel to the U.S. declined by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To lure visitors back, U.S. Travel has been pushing the Travel Promotion Act, which recently was passed in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, to create a campaign to strengthen the image of the United States abroad.There are more horror stories about US Immigration here, with some commenters comparing their experience unfavourably to the former East Germany, and others speaking of great lengths taken to avoid the US when travelling. I must say that this has not been my experience. On both occasions when I visited the US, the entry process was quick (quicker than returning to Britain at Heathrow, on some occasions), and the staff were polite. Then again, on both occasions I had arrived at San Francisco; your mileage may vary.
Author and psychogeographer Iain Sinclair (best known for his somewhat hermetic writings about walks around greater London) has apparently been banned by Hackney Council from launching a book at Stoke Newington Library, seemingly because of critical remarks he made about the 2012 Olympics:
Then, last Friday night, I had a call to say sorry, but the invitation was withdrawn. It seemed a diktat had come down from above that I was a non-person and should be barred from the library for the crime of writing an off-message piece on the Olympics. This essay, published in the London Review of Books, responded to aspects of the creation of the Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley: the destruction of the Manor Garden allotments, the eviction of travellers, and the famous "legacy" revealed as nothing more than a gigantic shopping mall in Stratford.
The essay had very little to do with the book I was invited to launch. Challenged, the council shifted its ground: I was controversial. Controversy was not allowed in libraries. There could, presumably, be no discussion of stem-cell research or Afghanistan. And Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire fell into that category. A conclusion Hackney was miraculously able to reach without reading a line of a book that won't be published for another three months.
While researching my memoir, I walked back to the Stoke Newington Library and asked for the local history section. They told me that there wasn't one. History had been declared redundant. All that was left were half a dozen pamphlets in a box kept under the desk.More proof that the Olympics is, by its essential nature, a totalitarian project incompatible with free speech?
The recent Beijing Olympics have been acclaimed as a spectacular success; though what they really demonstrated is the power of totalitarianism to get things done, a point which has been lost on a lot of naïve Western commentators:
The road home from Beijing is lined with wide-eyed converts who've seen the light on totalitarianism. “China has set the bar very high,” Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said. “There are some things that London will not be able to compare to, or equal - such as the ability to bring hundreds of thousands of volunteers to different sites.” Yes, Jacques, it is amazing what people can achieve once they appreciate there is no alternative.
Of course the Beijing Games went without a hitch. Give anyone total, terrifying control over a population, with force, and they will make them march in unison, drum, smile, dance, mime, jump through hoops if necessary. “They don't look very oppressed,” wrote one observer. No, pal, and neither would you if you knew the consequences of complaint.
Those performing the three-minute umbrella dance at the opening ceremony trained for six months for 14-15 hours each day, while the 900 soldiers unrolling the scroll that was the centrepiece of the production wore nappies because they had to stay hidden for seven hours, with not even a trip to the toilet allowed. And this is the event that our Olympics Minister called wondrous? That Rogge thinks will be hard to beat?And the biggest threat, the article says, is that Britain's politicians, starstruck by Beijing 2008, will take home the lesson that totalitarianism can be so awesome:
This is the most worrying legacy of the Beijing Games. It has shown our ministers, civil servants and sports administrators what could be achieved, if we could only suspend personal freedom. Change is afoot.Not that suspending civil liberties for the duration of the Olympics so that everyone can have fun without being brought down by protesters or other troublemakers is without precedent; it happened during the Sydney Olympics of 2000, when locals were prohibited from letting friends park in their houses (as not to compete with the official parking sponsors) and wearing clothing with political slogans or non-sponsoring brand names on it in the streets. Which is fairly mild compared to mass levelling of neighbourhoods, though it does make one wonder what innovations in the management of civil liberties the Blairite/Brownites will be tempted to bring to London 2012.
The Chinese, it seems, don't get British self-deprecation:
The Titan Sports Daily contrasted the "neatness" of the Chinese performers with the "outrageous outfits" worn by the Britons. Unlike the Chinese custom which tends not to reveal their weakness to the outsiders, "the British seem to like to laugh about their stupidity in a funny way", it said.
"During the performance, when the London bus pulled over, all the passengers waiting for the bus rushed into the door at the same time, which truly damaged the British image," it added.On the other hand, the Titan Sports Daily also raised the point that some of the entertainers chosen (Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis) weren't famous enough to be recognised by millions of Chinese spectators. Which is a valid point; I couldn't tell you who Leona Lewis is either. (I'm guessing she's a reality-TV veteran of some sort, or possibly a footballer's wife/girlfriend.) Jimmy Page seems like a different matter, though given that China wasn't open to Western influences when Led Zeppelin were in their heyday, one could expect him to draw a blank there.
The Chinese government has hit upon a novel solution for preventing troublesome protests from erupting at Olympic events: surreptitiously lose most of the tickets, and bus in well-disciplined cheer squads to fill the empty seats, taking place of unpredictable members of the public:
Blocks of tickets went to government departments, Communist party officials or state-owned companies, which have quietly obeyed orders not to hand them out. “People are so angry because they slept all night outside ticket booths and got nothing and now they see this,” said one blogger, Jian Yu.
At some football matches in the northern city of Shenyang, only a third of the seats were taken. Even some gymnastics finals, usually one of the biggest attractions on the programme, were not sold out.Of course, people who waited for tickets but failed to get them (from ordinary Chinese sports fans to the relatives of foreign competitors) are rather annoyed, though they are assuming that the purpose of the Olympics is to provide an entertaining spectacle (or, alternately, to serve as a promotional exercise for corporate sponsors). The Chinese government's view of the Games' purpose is somewhat different: to buy legitimacy for a worrisomely totalitarian one-party state (one typically associated with doing unspeakable things to cuddly
And here is Charlie Brooker's take on it.
One of the arguments for giving the Olympics to China—a contentious choice, 12 years after the crushing of the Tienanmen Square protests—was that such an event would force China to improve its human rights. Even while we couldn't expect China, a totalitarian state, to become a model nation in this respect, the argument went, surely the eyes of the world upon it would cause the situation to improve somewhat.
This argument has been shattered by a recent Amnesty International report, which finds that the Olympics have actually made things worse, with the Chinese authorities stepping up repression, censorship and arbitrary imprisonment and relocation to make sure that the games run smoothly.
The report says that Chinese activists have been locked up, people have been made homeless, journalists have been detained, websites blocked, and the use of labour camps and prison beatings has increased.
"We've seen a deterioration in human rights because of the Olympics," said Roseann Rife, a deputy programme director for Amnesty International.The authors of the Amnesty report have the extraordinary naïveté to suggest that this has "undermined" the "Olympic values" of human dignity. Surely the values that would go best with putting on a huge spectacle of commercialism and national chest-beating would be those of totalitarianism; making the trains run on time, crushing any uncomfortable dissent, and all, and China would be a more natural host than any liberal democracy which would be obliged to pass uncomfortable laws suspending civil liberties (as Sydney did in 2000; the laws, still on the books, have since come in handy for other mass spectacles, such as the Catholic Church's World Youth Day this year). Meanwhile, with the exception of a few granola-eaters and Guardian readers, the West doesn't care as long as they get their entertainment product shipped into their sitting rooms through the TV.
Perhaps when the location of the next Olympics is decided, the IOC should consider North Korea; after all, coordinating mass events with ruthless precision is one thing the Hermit Kingdom excels at.
Let it not be said that China is not willing to democratise; the Chinese government has announced that, for the Olympics, it is adopting one aspect of American-style late democracy: free speech zones, in which protest is permitted. As long, of course, as the protesters have permission from the police:
Liu Shaowu, director of the Beijing organising committee's security department, said protests would be allowed in Shijie, Zizhuyuan and Ritan parks.
"They are all close to the city proper and the Olympic venues," he told a press conference on the city's security preparations. But Mr Wu was hazy about how potential protesters would apply for permission, and on whether spontaneous demonstrations would be allowed.
With the Olympics, that natural showcase of totalitarian regimes, approaching, the Chinese government is making sure that nothing is left to chance, and preemptively banning all sorts of things, just in case:
Beijing police have been visiting bar owners in the popular Sanlitun area and asking them to sign pledges agreeing to not serve black people or Mongolians and ban activities including dancing.
And in a separate move, the Ministry of Public Security announced at the start of the month that from October 1, discos, karaoke bars and other entertainment venues must install transparent partitions in previously private rooms, and ensure staff dress more modestly as part of an effort to crack down on prostitution and drugs.
Beijing CBD businesses are reporting increasingly bizarre restrictions on couriers. This includes a ban on transporting CD-ROMs through the city, and mobile phones or GPS devices can only be sent if their batteries are delivered separately. This is on top of postal restrictions on sending liquids and powders.
The Olympic torch relay, dogged by protests against Chinese government policies across its journey, has finally had a smooth, protest-free run—in North Korea, where it was met by thousands of North Koreans waving flags in perfect unison, with absolutely no sign of protest:
"We express our basic position that while some impure forces have opposed China's hosting of the event and have been disruptive. We believe that constitutes a challenge to the Olympic idea," Pak said.
Via Crikey, an account of an earlier Olympic torch protest, this one before the Melbourne olympics in 1956:
With this escort around him, the runner made his way through the streets all the way to the Sydney Town Hall. He bounded up the steps and handed the torch to the waiting mayor who graciously accepted it and turned to begin his prepared speech.
Then someone whispered in the mayor’s ear, “That’s not the torch.” Suddenly the mayor realized what he was holding. Held proudly in his hand was not the majestic Olympic flame. Instead he was gripping a wooden chair leg topped by a plum pudding can inside of which a pair of kerosene-soaked underwear was burning with a greasy flame. The mayor looked around for the runner, but the man had already disappeared, melting away into the surrounding crowd.The hoaxer was a veterinary student named Barry Larkin, who (along with eight other students from the University of Sydney) planned the prank to take the piss out of a Nazi-era tradition which they felt was being treated with too much reverence.
Surprisingly, Larkin was treated as a hero; even the rector of the University of Sydney reportedly walked up to him the following day and said "well done, son". If he faced any punishment, it is not mentioned in the article. It's hard to imagine something like this happening these days without universal condemnation from the press and criminal charges, larrikinism being best left to professionals (such as TV celebrities) who can keep it safe for all. Could 1956-era Australia have been, in some ways, less conservative than the present day?
As the Olympic torch continues its worldwide tour, surrounded by aggressive Chinese guards and hounded persistently by human-rights protesters, some have called for the protesters to shut up and keep politics out of sport. They would do well to read up about the history of the whole Olympic torch ceremony, which originated not in ancient Greece but in Nazi Germany:
He sold to Josef Goebbels – in charge of media coverage of the Games – the idea that 3,422 young Aryan runners should carry burning torches along the 3,422km route from the Temple of Hera on Mount Olympus to the stadium in Berlin. It was his idea that the flame should be lit under the supervision of a High Priestess, using mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays, and passed from torch to torch along the way, so that when it arrived in the Berlin stadium it would have a quasi-sacred purity.
The concept could hardly fail to appeal to the Nazis, who loved pagan mythology, and saw ancient Greece as an Aryan forerunner of the Third Reich. The ancient Greeks believed that fire was of divine origin, and kept perpetual flames burning in their temples.
But the ancient Games were proclaimed by messengers wearing olive crowns, a symbol of the sacred truce which guaranteed that athletes could travel to and from Olympus safely. There were no torch relays associated with the ancient Olympics until Hitler.
The route from Olympus to Berlin conveniently passed through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, and Czechoslovakia - countries where the Nazis wanted to extend their influence. Before long, all would be under German military occupation. In Hungary, the flame was serenaded by gypsy musicians who would later be rounded up and sent to death camps.
It now emerges that London's win of the 2012 Olympics may have been due to a voting error. Apparently one member who had meant to vote for Madrid in the third round voted for Paris, which won second place by one vote. Had Madrid won, it is speculated that the votes of the Latin American countries would have easily won it the Olympics in the final round.
The official marketing restrictions for the London Olympics have been announced; in order to protect sponsors' investment, other businesses in London will be prohibited from using in their names or marketing not only the word 'Olympic', but also a host of other words, among them 'games', "gold', 'silver', 'bronze', '2012' or 'summer', as well as facsimiles of the Olympic logo (Audi dealerships can't be too happy about this) or the as yet undesigned mascots. No word on whether it will be illegal to wear T-shirts with political slogans in public spaces in London, as was apparently the case in Sydney in 2000.
London has won the 2012 Olympics. Which means that Londoners can look forward to public transport improvements (read: entire tube lines being shut down for many months at a time to get them ready for the five-ring circus), not to mention the standard curbs on civil liberties when the event does happen. (For example, wearing a T-shirt bearing a political slogan, such as "FREE TIBET" or "US OUT OF VENEZUELA", or indeed the logo of the rival of an official Olympic sponsor, will probably be an arrestable offense within large parts of normally public space in the city. In Sydney in 2000, it was also forbidden to allow friends to park on one's property, as it would cut into the official parking providers' profits or somesuch; somehow, this probably won't be as big an issue in London.)
In the U.S., abortion-clinic and gay-bar bomber Eric Rudolph, who hid from police in the North Carolina mountains for five years using survivalist techniques, has confessed to the Atlanta olympics bombing.
So far, he appears to have declined to give a theological argument against sporting events. His explanation for bombing the Olympics is here; apparently it has to do with the Olympics' "despicable" Lennonist-socialist ideals; that and abortion.
Meanwhile, in Britain, another one of God's soldiers has been convicted for planning ricin attacks on the public. Kamel Bourgass, linked to al-Qaeda and a militant Islamist group centred at the Finsbury Park mosque, was found to have plans and raw materials for making the deadly poison; it is believed his plans for it included spraying it on car door handles around that hotbed of Zionist-Crusader Infidelism, Holloway Road. Bourgass, also known as Nadir, is already serving a life sentence after stabbing a police officer to death when facing arrest.
According to The Law West of Ealing Broadway, the conspiracy of traffic light controllers (London branch) has been pressed into the service of the 2012 Olympic bid. As the Olympic Committee visits London, prior to making its decision, they will experience preternaturally smooth traffic flow, as London's traffic flow computers tweak light sequences to give them priority. (Which, of course, means that the poor bastards on other roads will be stuck in worse congestion than normal.) Meanwhile, all public transport the Committee will see will be scrubbed to Working-Title-romantic-comedy-set levels of shininess.
(Candidate cities attempting to woo the International Olympic Committee by dishonest means? Say it ain't so!)
Am I glad I don't live in Sydney: Meanwhile, civil liberties have been suspended, as Sydney is turned into Disneyland for the Olympics, replete with totalitarian restrictions designed to maximise the sponsors' profits. (Or so these lefties are saying anyway; though in this case I'd probably believe them.)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the power to disqualify athletes who "promote a political or religious message" and requires them to sign an agreement prohibiting them from "recording their thoughts" of their Games experiences, which according to the IOC would amount to "an athlete acting as a journalist." The rule, which covers athletes' personal web sites, is an attempt to ensure that athletes do not scoop official broadcasters. Any breach will constitute grounds for expulsion from the event.
It is illegal for residents living within a five-kilometre radius of an Olympic venue to allow cars to be parked on their property, with any breach punishable by a $15,000 fine. Parking in Olympic-designated zones incurs a $348 fine, five times the current penalty, and those attempting to travel in special Olympic traffic lanes on Sydney roads will be fined $2,200.
(Somewhat reminiscent of the special lanes on Soviet motorways that were reserved for Communist Party apparatchiks.)
Welfare workers have complained that treatment of the homeless by security guards "borders on harassment". The guards, however, are taking their lead from the state government, which has offered the homeless a "choice" of staying in an overcrowded city hostel or being transported to a tent encampment in one of Sydney's outer suburbs
(Brazilian-style shanty towns, here we come; perhaps we should borrow more of the Brazilian solution and just cull the homeless like feral kangaroos?)
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