This Wednesday, the Games finally begin. The details of the opening ceremony remain under wraps, but one thing does look certain – no council houses are going to be blown up during it. The organiser’s original plans were back-pedalled on amid a full scale civil society revolt, which dominated the news agenda and saw red-faced politicians pointing fingers at anyone but themselves. With even self-appointed arbiters of popular moral decency the Daily Mail raising the spectre of the police “dragging neighbouring residents from their homes” to allow the demolition to go ahead, it rapidly became untenable, with the Police themselves requesting that the plans be shelved due to ‘safety and security’ concerns. As the Games Chief Exec then revealed on Radio Scotland, they were completely petrified that the opening ceremony could become a flashpoint of protest.
But in case you’re getting concerned that the Games are now sanitised, free of association with blowing up buildings or devoid of crass levels of insensitivity, there’s little to worry about. They remain a veritable jamboree of corporate criminals, arms manufacturers, tax dodgers and companies who profit from persecuting disabled people. Which is maybe befitting of a tournament that until 1970 still had ‘Empire’ in its title; Britain’s bloody colonial legacy is in fine form today if the list of companies who’re bringing the games to us is anything to go by…
1. The Drone Manufacturer
Let’s get this straight: Games chiefs ditched the Red Road mass-blowing-up not just because it was a stupid idea to have a precisely timed, televised ceremony fitted around something as volatile as demolishing five towerblocks and the many factors this would depend on, but because of safety and security concerns. Which raises the question of just who is providing security for the games? Step forward Selex ES, a subgroup of Italian arms giant Finmeccanica, who specialise in the production of drones, radar, targeting and surveillance systems. Among other countries with terrible human rights records like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, Selex has supplied radar to the Israeli military, with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade directly accusing the company of of being complicit in the murder of civilians in Gaza. The campaign recently put pressure on the organisers of the Edinburgh Science Festival to drop Selex as a sponsor, forcing the organisers to concede a ‘debate’ over the role of the arms industry funding. At the Games, Selex’s role will extend to being the official provider of “Perimeter Security”, with the corporate spiel laden puff piece on the Games website promising a “wide range” of physical security measures from the firm. Whether we can expect armed drones over Dalmarnock and gun turrets atop the Gallowgate Twins (à la London 2012) remains to be seen. Whatever the case, knocking down unoccupied flats in Springburn may be one thing, but having a company who assist the Israeli military’s campaign of terror in the Gaza strip directly running Games “perimeter security” is quite another.
2. FUCKING ATOS
You’ve quite possibly heard of Atos before. After all, they are famous for being an IT company which “powers progress and helps organisations to create their firm of the future” – so I read on the Commonwealth Games website! Or perhaps you’ve just seen the hijacking of Glasgow’s street furniture by their corporate branding over the past couple of months, hanging on lamp posts across the city (who sanctioned that, seriously?). Or maybe, just maybe, you know them as the company whose ‘Healthcare’ subsidiary has been widely condemned for their role in carrying out the ‘Work Capability Assessments’ on behalf of the Government, bullying and intimidating sick and disabled people back into work. Over 10,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos, while countless others have suffered huge stress and illness as a result of their blundering mismanagement of the welfare system. Protests against Atos’s involvement in the Games have been ongoing for months, with regular occupations and protests outside both their assessment centre in Glasgow and the Games HQ and venues. Just last week, the baton relay was disrupted, with the arrested protester then banned from entering any Games venues for the duration of the event.
Then again, these are the Games which began by demolishing a disability day care centre (still not replaced) for the sake of a bus park, so perhaps Atos and Glasgow 2014 are deserving of each other…
It’s hard to know where to start with G4S, the monolithic security empire that despite continually fucking up everything they touch still manage to get handed public contracts to run well, everything. They made such a mess of the London Olympics that the army had to be drafted in and their CEO resigned, but of course that didn’t stop them getting the contract this time round, cause who else could they give it to? Clare Sambrook over at OpenDemocracy started documenting the G4Sification of the UK over four years ago and it’s still a work in progress, so I won’t go into too much details on all the terrible things G4S have done here or I might still be here in four years time too. But as a company which is playing a key role in privatising public services in the UK, from justice to children’s home to deportation centres (with a dreadful record in each), their role in profiting from Israel’s war machine, to the revolving door they operate between their operations and government (John Reid, formerly of Blair’s cabinet – and Celtic FC – being a case in point), they’re enough to rival any archetypal Bond villian with terrifying plans for world domination. It goes without saying that despite their major roles as providers of state services, both G4S and Atos go to great lengths to avoid paying any corporation tax. G4s are a spectacularly bad employer as well, relying on a huge reserve pool of labour to fill their shitty zero hours temp security jobs whenever they win a big contract like the Commonwealth Games. If one company epitomises the ‘keep calm and manage decline’ spirit of austerity UK 2014 more than any other, it’s Group 4 Securicor.
BP have been trying to rebrand themselves as ‘Beyond Petroleum’, the flowerly logoed eco-crusaders of green energy and nice things, for over ten years. It’s a shame it all went to shit when Deepwater came over the horizon in April 2010 and shattered any illusions their PR budget had managed to create, as they oversaw the biggest oil spill in the history of marine oil spills. It was a sharp reminder that for all their bids to convince people otherwise, they are an oil company. Who drill oil.
No one seems to be causing much of a fuss around BP’s sponsorship of Glasgow 2014, although they’ve come in for fierce criticism of their ‘greenwashing’ attempts elsewhere. BP’s Glasgow role will see them both supplying vehicles with “advanced fuel” (I think they mean petrol) and, incredibly, overseeing the ‘carbon neutral’ aspect of the Games, ‘encouraging anyone with tickets to the Games to offset their travel carbon emissions via BP Target Neutral’. This is endemic of liberal attitudes towards combating climate change – that basically if we just plant a couple of trees and do some recycling then everything will be alright. Which is total pish; if we’re serious about tackling climate change, we need a systemic shift – the kind that would threaten the power of Big Oil – not token acts of individualism that make precisely zero difference to the climate. The involvement of BP makes Glasgow 2014’s claims of leaving a “green legacy” absolutely laughable, so it’s hardly surprising that promises to create clean air zones around Games venues have been shelved. Meanwhile, a cavalcade of around 25 high-emission 4X4s has been crawling round Scotland at a snail’s pace for the last month to give people a fleeting glimpse of the “Queen’s Baton” – in areas which are already breaching EU safety levels of “deadly air pollution”. The only ‘green’ thing about these Games is in the suitcases that’ve been changing hands behind the scenes (definitely a joke, hahahah).
This may seem like scraping the barrel, but in reality it’s barely scraping the surface. Mega events like the Commonwealth Games may superficially be about sport (or something) but they’re also a way for a lot of big companies to continue making a lot of money, take over our public spaces and re-assert their total dominance of our society. While we’re in the middle of an onslaught of being told how lucky we are to have the Games in Glasgow, it’s worth bearing in mind who really stands to benefit from them.