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City and Spectacle

In document London: City of Paradox (Page 181-198)

Value Creation in the Olympic City

— Gavin Poynter (UEL)

In the context of London 2012, put quite simply, we have two social processes taking place at the same time: on the one hand, we have a spectacle, as Michael Rustin has called it in his book (2009), a spectacle that involves one of the greatest sporting events to take place globally in the world; and on the other hand, particularly since the experience of Barcelona in 1992, we have a process associated with that event, which I will briefly call 'city-building'. Much of the work that we explored in that context here at the UEL has been focussed on this process of city building, in particular the city-building component that is associated with the game-delivering, the social transformation of East London as promised, and the social transformation that explicitly seeks to improve and enhance the life opportunities of socially disadvantaged communities that have long existed within that area.

The kind of conclusion that we have drawn, I think, and that certainly I would draw from the research we have undertaken, is that, in a sense, the Olympics as an event and the city building are two really good things: the Olympics is an event that attracts a global audience and elite athletes from across the world; on the other hand, in terms of the UK, the thing we desperately need is good city building, at the present time, particularly given the shortages of housing, social infrastructure and other amenities. So these in themselves may be considered to be good things. But the problem lies in the way in which these are put together. It is the bringing together of these good things that give rise to many of the issues that other papers have referred to. We have heard much about the 'London model', that is, London has not only delivered the Games on time but it would also deliver an astonishing legacy. The 'London model' is something that we should be interpreting and analysing in some details because it would be of considerable interest to future host cities.

Now, it seems to me that in this context, one of the other broad points – before going on to refer to some of the research that we have undertaken – is that throughout the 20th century politics played with sport, politics engaged with sport, particularly through experiences of the Cold War era. The Olympics could not escape the ideological debate of the Cold War era and this was reflected through a number of incidents from 1968 to 1980s with various countries

refusing to participate in the Games. Since approximately 1992, in a sense, the ideological Olympics has been displaced by an end-of-ideology Olympics. There has been a great interest in the kind of model that Michael Rustin has already outlined (2009), a kind of technocratic model of Games organisation through which, in effect, sport tends to displace politics and particularly the politics associated with city building.

One of the things that we looked at recently and Penny Bernstock, my colleague, has done much of the hard research on this, has been the ways in which urban regeneration plays in the context of the mega event and gives rise to a new value, the re-valorisation of the whole area of the city, in London’s case, the East End of London. How is it that this re-valorisation takes place? And who is it that vastly benefits from this process of turning a largely brownfield site into new areas of urban spatial development associated with good transport and other forms of social and commercial infrastructure? In a sense, re-valorisation when linked to this urban regeneration agenda has a certain familiar ring to it, in relation to the Games as well as other major projects undertaken recently in the UK. It goes something like this: you have a large pot of public investment, 9.3 billion pounds, the investment takes place at the lowest point of depreciation of the land and the properties in a particular area, in this case, East London. Significant public investment improves the rail and road infrastructure, constructs new buildings, green spaces and areas of considerable potential. This subsequently pushes up land values and property prices. In the context of the Olympics, we suddenly begin to find that the private sector which was interested at the beginning of the Games becomes rather more interested down the line when public investment begins to deliver the re-valorisation of certain parts of the area of East London, particularly around the Olympic Park.

The private sector engages then with the state in the way that Michael Rustin has already identified (2009) through negotiation with public authority over the potential of the Olympic Park, the Olympic Village and the area that surrounds it. In the course of this development, the obvious concern of the private sector is for viability. We can explore what 'viability' means in some more detail perhaps in the discussion. That process of re-valorisation is triggered by the public sector and the private sector in the context of the Olympics gets involved as some of the improvements begin to take shape. Who benefits from that new value that is generated? Now, if we listen to the Mayor and to successive governments, Labour and Conservative, and if we listen to the local authorities, who have very ambitious policies in relation to the convergence of the life opportunities of these disadvantaged communities with the rest of London, it would seem clear that the policy that emerges from the political sphere is geared towards improving and enhancing the social condition of the less well, less

privileged communities of East London.

From the research that we have undertaken so far, however, it appears that what could be achieved through the development of the Olympics will be precisely the opposite of that which the policy makers have announced. I think that it is important to know in some ways how and why this will take place and it does require in-depth exploration. Our work, for example, looked at the agreement between the state and the local state agencies, particularly local authorities but also the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, and developers in the area bordering the Olympics Park, in particular, Stratford High Street. The 'Section 106 Agreement' is one in which a private developer makes a commitment to provide public and community gain from the developments that are taking place. From the study conducted by Penny, particularly the 22 schemes in the Stratford High St. area, (we are following this up with the Olympic Park itself) it is very clear that there is little evidence of community gain being achieved substantially from these development activities.

First of all, the scale of the Olympic development reveals in many respects the inadequacy of all the legal framework mechanisms that the public sector has put in place to secure benefits from its investment. The private developers tend to get away with, to put it simply, a 'mitigation impact fee' as a result of the development that they have decided to construct. They do not, in any way, return to the public or community sector, anything that is commensurate with the initial public investment made, whether that has been in the form of social housing, or other public spaces. In the context, for example, of social housing from 2005 to 2012, one can see that the development that has taken place around the Olympic Park has delivered proportionately less and less social housing. Other elements of public and community benefits have also been much diminished as a result of these agreements. What does it mean in relation to the Olympics coming to East London? I have about four observations to make. The first is this, that the Olympics does reveal a role performed by the state and public investment on behalf of the private sector and it does demonstrate, in many ways, not really some of the flows of the public-private partnership, but a rather more important dynamic in relation between the state and the private sector that is one of the increased dependency of the private sector upon the technocratic state as a source of profitability. In other words, the Olympics reveal the fundamental weaknesses existing in the British economy at the present time and the role that the state has historically played in trying to support that rather weak economy. Secondly, the claims that are made in relation to the policy associated with the socially disadvantaged in East London are all proven to be ineffective; improvements in the life of the socially disadvantaged will not come through the

Olympics themselves. That balance of benefits will largely accrue to the private sector and the developers that are working in particular pockets of East London. The nature of that development opportunity is also changing in the context of London itself: the Olympic Park is a good illustration of this. With the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund’s investments in the Olympic Village we can see that international properties investors will begin to find London properties, in particular of the iconic type, a very lucrative investment. Finally in the context of the pattern for London and East London, for the future, the path that emerges from the Games is the path that in a way re-enforces the network of existing business interests and the networks of work that already exist within London as a whole. And this, I think, will ultimately be to the detriment sadly of the disadvantaged communities that are currently living here.


MacRury, I. and Poynter, G. (2009) London’s Olympic Legacy: A “Thinkpiece” report prepared for the OECD and Department for Communities and Local Government, London: London East Research Institute.

MacRury, I. and Poynter, G. (eds) (2009) Olympic Cities: 2012 and the Remaking of London, Farnham: Ashgate Publishers.

Rustin, M. (2009) Olympic Cities: 2012 and the Reshaping of London, Farnham: Ashgate Publishers.

Is the Army invading British Civil Society?

— Vron Ware (Open University)

After more than ten years of overstretch in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently in Libya, the armed forces – the British Army in particular – find themselves looking for a new role not just as an adjunct of US military power, or with European partners, but in the domestic sphere as well (Richard Norton-Taylor, 2012). While the human cost of non-stop wars defies calculation, the institution has been subjected to significant cuts and restructuring as part of the Coalition Government’s efforts to slash the public sector. As Londoners assimilate the fact that the city is under military occupation for the duration of the games, and that a further 3,500 soldiers will be employed (Hopkins, 2012) as bargain-basement security guards, it is clear (Ware, 2010) that the relationship between the armed forces and civil society has changed beyond recognition over the last decade (Barnett, 2012).

A recent indication is the news that Labour’s latest policy review is looking at how young people could gain from “the values and expertise” of military institutions. Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy (2012), shadow ministers for education and defence respectively, began with the now commonplace platitude that the armed forces “are central to our national character, just as they are to our national security. The ethos and values of the Services can be significant not just on the battlefield but across our society, including in schools.” Their vague proposals for integrating military workers into civilian society include the suggestion that “a cadre of Armed Services mentors, mainly veterans and reservists …work closely with those in need of guidance and support. This gestures towards the vexed issue of resettling a militarised workforce likely to be heavily scarred by combat experience (Sherwood, 2012).” One concrete plan, however, is to increase the cadet force in state secondary schools, a long- running plan that has been previously backed by Gordon Brown and Michael Gove as a solution to improving the character and moral standards of the nation’s young people.

Ed Miliband’s attempt to join the military choir is merely the latest proof that the status of the armed forces has changed significantly in the last decade. From 2003 onwards, the outpouring of public sympathy towards soldiers who were cast as victims of futile and unpopular wars has been part of a long drawn-out process during which British military

institutions have been repositioned at the centre of national life. As soldiers prepare to carry out security checks and public order duties during the London Olympics – the biggest mobilisation of military and security forces seen in the UK since the Second World War – the public is about to witness one dimension of these profound changes.

The games provide a tailor-made experiment to test the public’s reactions to army uniforms seen up close and, above all, worn by soldiers primed to engage with fellow citizens as opposed to foreign combatants. Despite the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) initial reluctance to commit the overstretched forces to the operation (Hopkins and Gibson, 2012), the haphazard co-operation between police, private contractors G4S and military personnel can be seen as a dry run for Britain’s developing state security arrangements.

While the news of thousands of redundancies and the scrapping of historic regiments has attracted most of the media attention, the revelation that the so-called Army 2020 (Army, 2012) will involve a greater proportion of logistical and other work farmed out to private contractors has passed without comment. The fact that the future Army 2020 will rely on thousands of reserve, or part-time, soldiers, should be understood as another strategy to integrate military work into the civilian economy, enmeshing employers as well as recruits into a wider network of the nation’s security apparatus. As Twigg and Murphy point out, “Reservists use civilian skills to support the military and the reverse should also be true”. These developments have had accumulated affects: the changing public view of soldiering as a particular form of labour; the deployment not just of military hardware (Bond and Drury, 2012) but also uniformed soldiers (Prince, 2012) in securitising the games; the cuts and restructuring of the defence sector as an index of the UK’s diminishing global influence; and the mounting anxiety about the sheer numbers of ex-servicemen and women re-entering the workforce, a large proportion of whom are suffering mental and physical health issues as a result of combat experience.

While the armed forces have been engaged in continuous deployment in far away countries, the ‘homeland’ has been inexorably subjected to new technologies of surveillance and control. With the military otherwise occupied, the onus on devising policies to cope with emergencies, from floods to chemical warfare to what are known as ‘Mumbai-style’ attacks, has fallen largely on police and local authorities.

A recent document (2012) from Mark Phillips, based at the Royal United Services Institute, indicates that calculating a distinct role for the military in national security and ‘homeland resilience’ might be a fraught business. He notes that it not going to be straightforward integrating the armed forces with police and other security agencies which are not used to

military modes of operating. Military planners are also aware that the institution’s relationship with the public is important as well. The King's Centre for Military Health Research (2012) reports that that although 83 per cent of the public have “a high or very high opinion of the armed forces, almost 20 per cent of service personnel have faced hostility from members of the public on their return from Afghanistan and Iraq, and nearly 60 per cent of them felt people did not understand their experience during deployment.”

For these reasons alone the debates about the future of the armed forces require a politically engaged response. The official decision about Army 2020 was announced shortly after Armed Forces Day on 30 June, leaving the government open to the charge that there was a delay so as to spare embarrassment in the MoD. But, in addition to the controversial cuts and amalgamations to historic regiments, there are other aspects of the restructuring that have not been widely discussed. On the same Armed Forces Day – a new calendar event inaugurated by Brown’s government in 2009 - the Telegraph front page ran the headline, ‘Battalions with foreign bias face axe in army cuts ’ (Harding and Kirkup, 2012). The following day, 1 July, three more UK soldiers were killed in Afghanistan (MoD, 2012). One of these, Guardsman Apete Tuisovurua of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was a citizen of Fiji. He represented one of several thousand Commonwealth citizens recruited since 1998, when New Labour dropped residency requirements for Commonwealth citizens in order to boost flagging manpower levels. Aged 28, he had only joined in November 2010 and had served in his regiment for less than a year.

The suggestion that ‘foreign bias’ was a problem needs serious attention. Without the presence of Commonwealth citizens, the armed forces – the British Army in particular – would not have been able to deploy so widely in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review SDR increased the size of the logistics section which recruited heavily not just from Fiji, but also from Caribbean and African countries. In 2009 the Royal Logistics Corps RLC was one of the areas capped at 15% of non-UK citizens in an attempt to maintain the ‘Britishness’ of the organization. Today it faces heavy cuts and the replacement of former in-house functions by private contractors. The 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Infantry regiment (3 Yorks), due to be scrapped, has also recruited heavily from Commonwealth citizens since the turn of the century.

Equally important is the fact that the presence of Commonwealth soldiers throughout the armed forces has meant that the army, in particular, has been able to reach the requisite targets for black and minority ethnic (BME) personnel. The decision to axe those parts of the organisation that rely disproportionately on migrant labour presents a different kind of

headache for military recruiters. As levels of UK-born BMEs remain stubbornly low, it is important that civilians track the attempts made to sustain a functioning multicultural army that is not disconnected from the diversity in UK society.

Paying attention to the politics of military work offers important ways of monitoring a country’s

In document London: City of Paradox (Page 181-198)

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