Politics and the London 2012 Olympics: the (in)security Games



    1. Professor of Sport Policy in the Institute of Sport and Leisure Policy at Loughborough University, UK and Visiting Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo.
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    1. Professor of Sociology in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University.
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This article traces the emergence of security at the Olympic Games as a key concern of host governments and of the Olympic movement and analyses the implications of this heightened concern for the delivery of the Games, the local host community and for national security policy. It is argued that the Olympic Games, as a high profile media event, provide an increasingly attractive political opportunity structure for a range of political actors—an attraction that is intensified when the Games are held in a world city such as London. Since the 9/11 attacks in New York there has been a sharp increase in security expenditure for the Olympic Games, arguably significantly out of proportion to the likely risk. The cost of security has risen from approximately $108 million in 1996 (Atlanta) to an estimated $1.99 billion in 2012 (London). It is argued that the period since 2001 has been characterized by hyper-insecurity and a culture of intense risk aversion based not on probability but on the possibility of attack. Among the consequences of this development is a desensitization of host nations to the increased securitization of their cities. It is also argued that the impact on the local UK host community of Newham will be significant not only as a result of the intense level of policing, but also owing to the redevelopment associated with the Games and the use of the surveillance infrastructure to create a virtual gated community in the post-Games athletes' village. The article concludes by discussing some of the longer-term implications of the increased securitization of the Olympic Games, including the normalization of intense surveillance, the further encroachment on civil liberties and the growing tension between the values espoused by the Olympic movement and the reality of a successful delivery of the Games.