London that is widely known as a perfect example of surveillance society with its watchful CCTVs, is now a perfect example of a police state after the massive Olympics militarization, a fact even organizers implicitly acknowledge.
Organizers decided earlier this year to dress the official mascot for the 2012 Olympics in London, where the security and surveillance cordon are nicknamed the Ring of Steel, in a Metropolitan police outfit.
The mascots, “Wenlock” and “Mandeville”, feature a huge single eye that is actually a camera lens that organizers said can “record everything.”
The dolls effectively create an explicit symbol of the pervasive surveillance state and suggest an unwelcome addition to British social life that is now subject to an even more intrusive surveillance system thanks to the biggest and most expensive British security operation in decades for the Olympics.
The irony has been taken up by critics of the Games.
“Water cannon and steel cordon sold separately. Baton rounds may be unsuitable for small children. A more perfect visual metaphor for 2012, I cannot imagine,” Games Monitor mocked.
One can only appreciate what the Olympic mascots have been ironically symbolizing when a few figures on the military deployment during the Olympics are taken into consideration.
The British government deployed more than three times as many regular troops as former US president George W. Bush administration did in 2002 for the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, which began only six months after the 9/11 incidents and four months after the US invaded Afghanistan.
A total 41,000 troops, police officers, private security staff, etc were deployed in London.
There also comes a long list of equipment on the ground and in the air: a Navy aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark and the force’s largest warship HMS Ocean will watch the city, Typhoon fighter jets, Apache Helicopters, eagle-eyed surveillance drones and E-3 Sentinel spy planes will swarm the skies, radars and surface-to-air missiles will scan the skies while an 18km, 5,000-volt electrified security barrier partitions off the Olympic zone.
The police state was further intensified by a de facto suspension of civil liberties.
Public protests were banned — and remain so — during the Games in “exclusion zones” near key locations and protesters face police with enhanced powers including the right to use force to enter private properties, seize political posters and prevent the display of any material that challenges the image of London as a “clean city”, which advertising sponsors including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola kept promoting.
Security measures also included new police checkpoints, number-plate and facial recognition CCTV systems, biometric ID cards and disease tracking systems.
And is that all set to be removed now that the Games have ended?
The answer is no as there are speculations that the government is using the opportunity to impose limitations on the British social life that would be otherwise impossible thanks to civil rights campaigners.
The idea for the continuation of the draconian measures would be that Britain faces threats from terrorists lurked inside its own cities and increasingly bigger surveillance would be needed to predict and contain such threats.
Here, victims would be the ethnic minorities and in particular Muslims.
The police did announce in May 2011 that 290 CCTV cameras formerly installed in the Muslim areas of Birmingham will be back online for the Games and there is no end visible to the extra surveillance.
What is more is that Olympic hosts have been unwilling to shelve the security measures taken up for the Games as the example of Greece’s high-tech surveillance cameras showed back in 2004.
After all, dissent is not desirable especially in the surveillance society of Britain and police began preparing London for the Games by predicting crimes early before the Games.
Back in July, officers reportedly arrested several graffiti artists in pre-emptive raids, which serves as a good example of the state intrusion into legal private activities of individuals in the police state the Olympics have helped intensify.
After media reports of 30 arrests, police claimed they arrested only four people for illegal wall paintings.
However, one of the detainees Darren Cullen turned out to be a known graffiti businessmen whose company Graffiti Kings has carried out graffiti projects for big names including Microsoft, Olympic sponsor Adidas and even for Team GB.
In a separate incident in Cardiff in July, police faced human rights campaigners’ call not to turn the city into a “police state” after a WalesOnline journalist was stopped and searched outside their headquarters.
The concerned journalist said he was “shaken up” by the police behavior and their violation of their guidelines.
“Working in the city centre, it feels like this place is turning into a police state,” he added.
That was echoed by anti-surveillance campaigners Privacy International.
“Olympics shouldn’t be an excuse to turn Britain into a police state,” it said.