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Mega-events, Security and Surveillance

July 22, 2009

The connection between what are often called ‘mega-events’ (international summits, major sporting competitions etc.), securitization, and he intensification of surveillance is becoming a very interesting area and one which we wrote about in our recent book on urban resilience. I am writing some further stuff on this with Kiyoshi Abe on how mega-events have been managed in Japan.

It seems that in general, such events are either used as ‘test-beds’ for new technologies and procedures which are then either continued afterwards (as with The Olympic Games and CCTV in Greece in 2004 and The FIFA World Cup and video surveillance in Japan/Korea in 2002), or become ‘islands’ of temporary exemption where normal legal human rights protections are reduced or removed and whole areas of public space are often literally, fenced off (as in Rio de Janeiro for the Pan-American Games of 2007, whose model will apparently be extended to include walling off the poor favelas in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup). There’s going to be a very interesting conference on The Surveillance Games later this year to tie in with the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Now The Guardian newspaper is reporting that the London Olympics 2012 may make use of a proposal originally designed to stop the proliferation of unofficial commercial advertising near games venues in order to prevent protest. The legislation even allows police to enter private houses to seize material.

Of course the government say that they have no plans to use it in this way, but it’s interesting to see the way in which the ‘standards’ being imposed by such travelling cicuses of globalization tend to end up looking more like the authoritarian regime in Beijing (host of the highly securitized 2008 Olympics) than the supposedly liberal west, whilst at the same time promoting a very controlled but highly commercialized environment. Even the original purposes of the 2006 law (necessary for London to host the Games) are an interesting reflection of the massive corporate interests involved in the Olympics, for which they apparently need a captive and docile audience.

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