Command, control and contestation: negotiating security at the London 2012 Olympics


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Mega-event security is often characterised as an exceptional exercise in terms of scale, scope and form, and considered variously through macro-theoretical lenses citing the assertion of overarching disciplinary, neoliberal, colonial corporatist and other interest-based aspirations. Based on empirical analysis of the London 2012 Olympic security operation and of those who resisted it (including data drawn from interviews and participant observations with key security agencies and activists), this paper interrogates the complex, diverse and often fragmented contestations over space across the Olympic neighbourhood. Despite the professed unity of purpose among Olympic planners (such as the protection of sponsors' access to the marketplace), more detailed analysis reveals both the application and purpose of ordering processes as contested and sometimes contradictory realms. Here, the longstanding recognition that space is used in simultaneously diverse ways is reflected in its control. Drawing on Foucauldian notions of security different impositions of order – regulatory, exclusionary, disciplinary, suggestive and assuasive – are argued to exist simultaneously in the same broadly defined area.