Friday, 27 July 2012

It's about sport, not exploitation, Or: Citizen Barnet's opening ceremony

Are you excited? I am. It would be hard to feel otherwise with the increasing signs around us of the expensive, ludicrous but ultimately, we hope, thrilling spectacle that commences officially tonight.

More and more of it makes sense now. The hideous bubble-gum pink colour they chose for the logo: unmissable - at least, when written on in six inch-high letters - all over the Underground.

When will you see again such an eclectic mix of destinations signposted?

The London mayor Boris Johnson's less than reassuring voice booming at us on public transport: at London Bridge, at Edgware bus station, and now on the buses themselves. Where else on earth could the citizens rudely and defiantly snub the elected head of the capital city using the hashtag #fuckoffboris? And let's not forget the bells, the bells!

Of course, the excitement has reached to almost every town in the nation, not least to our own suburb. Here in Barnet, the anti-cuts and anti-privatisation Barnet Alliance performed a sort of hommage in the shape of the very successful 'Our Barnet, not One Barnet' torch relay and community parade on Saturday 21 July. The Olympic Torch Relay (capitalised, of course) got an enthusiastic welcome in the borough on Wednesday.

I visit the King's Cross area a lot, and have watched the building work that contributes to the Olympics preparations. The sponsors' branding recently plastered all around St Pancras is even more obtrusive and cynical than one feared it might be.

Advertising from McDonald's at St Pancras

It is already taking longer to get around on London transport than usual, even before the Games has commenced. 

Crowds waiting to get onto HS1 which goes through Stratford

London's bus workers accepted the £577 bonus they won through strike action for the extra hassle they will have in the next month. It puts them on a par with Tube workers. But what about the cleaners and security staff, whose work is also essential to delivering participants and spectators to the Games? Their jobs have all been outsourced to companies who try to stop their workers organising for a decent wage at any time.

Today RMT-organised cleaners and security staff on London Underground and the DLR go on strike for 48 hours for the London living wage of £8.30 per hour and an Olympics bonus.

I have been dismayed by the still dirty state of the streets and pavements in central London. Could we not wash them just once for this special occasion? Do we want London to be the Dirty Games? I fear that, unlike for bus and train drivers, the authorities will put up with the cleaners downing tools - one bit more dirt won't hurt. Please support the RMT action today.

A reminder of back in the day, when London Underground cleaning was done in-house - with added King's Cross grime

Of course, the Olympics should be about sport, not exploitation.

While the UK taxpayer picks up the tab for hosting the Games - £9bn and rising - the sportswear manfacturers will be laughing all the way to the bank as their brands are boosted every time one of their sponsored athletes runs faster, jumps higher, or lifts a heavier weight. Every one of those companies' garments is made in a factory where workers struggle to earn a decent wage and must campaign for every improvement in their working conditions, in repressive countries such as China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Enjoy the opening ceremony and the Games but please take the time in the next few hours to sign the Playfair 2012 appeal to the International Olympics Committee to uphold workers' human rights in future Games - children were found making London 2012 pin badges in China. The Olympics is about sport, not exploitation - or it should be.

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