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.
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