As I was flipping through the paper yesterday, I came across a story about how British Air Defense was installing surface-to-air missiles on top of a British apartment building in preparation for the London Olympics this summer. So basically, about 700 people living in this building in Bow, a suburb outside of London, are now, for all intents and purposes, sitting on a missile installation. Temporary though it may be.
Among other security precautions, Britain will have up to 13,500 troops deployed on land, at sea and in the air, and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said Typhoon fighter jets, helicopters, two warships and bomb disposal experts will also be part of security operations.
“As announced before Christmas, ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London during the games,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
“Based on military advice we have identified a number of sites and, alongside colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, are talking to local authorities and relevant landowners to help minimize the impact of any temporary deployments.”
Yeah, I'm sure a lot of people in those neighbourhoods are feeling pretty good about having the extra missiles and troops on their block for the next couple months. My question is: are having the Olympics worth these kinds of draconian security precautions?
Now I'm not an idiot, I know there's a history of bad stuff happening at the Olympics, but if you've got to have an area of 2 to 3 miles out from where the games are taking place locked down, is it perhaps time to consider that the impact of the Olympics on a host country's regular population is too big for a mere athletic event?
Say what you want about the Olympic protesters that disrupted the torch run through Guelph a couple of years ago, but there was an important issue at the heart of their argument: Given the money spent, the disruption, the displacement, and the security concerns, are hosting the Olympics worthwhile? And before you answer yes, think about how you'd feel if the army turned your neighbourhood into a missile silo.
I know it would disturb me to no end, and considering that, I think we have to seriously ask the question. Laying aside any patriotic pride in Olympic accomplishment, and maybe even the expense, which would be considerable in any case, is it worth living in lockdown just so some people can play a game? Isn't having a celebration of peace and accomplishment surrounded by missiles and troops contradictory?
The answer to that maybe obvious, and an argument could be made that moving forward with the games in spite of the threats to it is a statement against those who would do violence, but we've got missiles on our apartment buildings now, and the world's biggest track and field meet is now more militarized than your average dictator's bunker. It's a situation that should be considered analytically before Canada puts in another Olympic bid.