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An accidental cycling legacy?

On 1st August a cyclist, Dan Harris, was killed by a bus coming from the Olympic Park at a spot near where TfL had made alterations to the road markings for cyclists on account of the Olympics. Not only had London 2012 failed to provide simple safe routes for cyclists to enter or circumnavigate the Olympic Park during the Olympics, it closed key cycle routes like the Greenway and, just before the Olympics began, the critical towpath on the west side of the Park which was shut without warning for reasons of security forcing cyclists onto busy roads. Local protests were, of course, simply ignored.


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Olympics jobs: treat with caution - again

A few weeks ago the Olympics were being hailed for creating lots of temporary jobs over the past six months, 100,000 of them supposedly in the last quarter and possibly up to 65,000 or so in the previous March to May period. Now the 'Olympics effect' has apparently worn off, as the Standard informs us in an article headlined 'Thousands sign on as Olympic jobs boom ends'.


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Miracle on the Underground

We've had the Olympics saving the economy, putting people back to work, being saved by the sponsors. Now it's the turn of Transport for London to describe the miracle on the Underground!


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The Trouble with Stadiums - London and Rio

More trouble with stadiums. Is this a record? For one Summer Games' stadium to remain out of action until after the next Olympics has ended? In London the LLDC has now said the Olympic stadium may not be used until August 2016. West Ham still seems to be the leading bidder in a race with Leyton Orient, Formula One and the UCFB College of Football Business with the NFL a wild card. In typical Olympics fashion Karren Brady has been talking up the jobs that will be created if West Ham win, claiming a thousand jobs will be created at the stadium. And, of course, in case we forget, where the Olympics are concerned property development is at the heart of the project and West Ham expect to make a killing on the redevelopment of their Green Street site

And then there's that budget again. The original cost of the stadium rose from £280m to £496m despite InsidetheGames reporting otherwise! Now a further £200 million may need to be spent on modifying the stadium for its future lessee on top of the £500 million already splashed out on its construction. In the meantime the LLDC will have to pay for the maintenance of the stadium while it lacks a tenant. As if that was not enough, the promise to continue to provide an athletics track has resurfaced as, if the stadium is not equipped with covered seating for one of these lessees, the deal with the IAAF for the Athletics World Championships in 2017 may have to be renegotiated. This could presage further trouble between the BOA and other parts of the Olympic team as S Coe, already a vice-president of the IAAF, has an ambition to head that body and retaining the stadium as an athletics venue is critical to that objective!

Hardly surprisingly after recent controversies the LLDC appears to have adopted a position of extreme caution in its planning. Dennis Hone, new Chief Executive of the LLDA, is reported as saying: “We need to make a decision on which of the four, if any, will provide the best long-term option and the best value for money. But it is important to remember that this is a 100-year lease we are talking about with the Stadium so we have to get it right.” 'If any'!

But London is not the only Olympic city to be experiencing stadium blues. Rio is wracked with controversy over the fate of the famous Maracanã stadium and sports complex. A public hearing into the privatisation of the stadium and complex was interrupted by a demonstration with hundreds expressing their disgust at the manoeuvrings of the authorities. Close on a billion dollars have been spent on programmes to upgrade the facilities. The football stadium has been closed for years as earlier programmes have been reversed. Now, despite promises from politicians like the present Mayor of Rio who said that “the privatization of the Maracanã is inconceivable”, privatisation is the preferred option following a well trodden path in mega events of public money being used to advance private interests. ‘Consultation’ takes the familiar form of presenting an agreed plan and ignoring objections. As Christopher Gaffney writes:

'The expenditure of public money on public works to be handed to private interests that involves the destruction of a top-performing public school, a century-old indigenous heritage site, and two Olympic quality training facilities in order to generate even more profit for Brazil’s richest man, is a perversity that boggles the imagination.'


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Have you seen one of our drones?

A neighbour of a friend, who was staying in Bow, told him the police had asked him one day during the Olympics: 'have you seen one of our drones?' It seems a drone crashed somewhere in Bow! Just in case this was an urban legend I thought I would make a Freedom of Information request to check out whether any drones had been in use and if any had crashed. The Met was not exactly forthcoming and fell back on the argument that national security was at stake and any revelation would be of benefit to criminals or terrorists.

Given that we are under constant surveillance from CCTV cameras and helicopters, even more so during the Olympics in the vicinity of Stratford, I have to wonder why the use of drones should not be revealed. Informing the public that they are in use should not compromise operations as UAVs can be deployed without the knowledge of those being observed far more easily than helicopters or publicly situated cameras. To reveal the operations of drones after the event would not compromise operations at the time and may even assist in ensuring the guilty are convicted, rather than the innocent, if film of an event is available because a drone was in use. Of course this would not be possible if the presence of a drone is not revealed.

The idea that revealing the use of drones would alert criminals and terrorists to police activity in a particular area and mean 'More crime would be committed' seems pretty fanciful. Criminals and terrorists are, by their nature, likely to assume they are being watched. Knowing that drones were being deployed might even act as a deterrent and make them more cautious about perpetrating crimes. But if it really was the case that there was a particularly sensitive case where revelation would compromise an operation then plainly exceptions could be made. In the particular case of the Olympics it is hard to see any justification for refusing to reveal their use as plainly everyone knows where the Olympics were being held and that there was a massive security operation in place, so it is not going to alert any criminals or terrorists, especially as the event is now well in the past. The exception claimed by the police is not to conceal but to reveal and in the case of the Olympics makes no sense at all.

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012100003430

I respond in connection with your request for information which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 29th October 2012. I note you seek access to the following information:

1. Did the Met Police use any drones (unmanned surveillance aircraft) during the Olympics?
2. If yes, when and where were they deployed?
3. If yes, were there any accidents involving drones?
4. Were any drones lost, did any crash?
5. If yes - where did such accidents or losses occur?

DECISION

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, (the Act), this response represents a Refusal Notice for this request under Section 17(1) of the Act.

The MPS can neither confirm nor deny that it holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Act does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain security bodies.
Section 24(2) National Security.
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

REASONS FOR DECISION

Should it be held, constituents of this information would attract Section 23, other constituents 24 and other constituents attract Section 31 of the Act.

It should not be surmised that should the information be held by the MPS we would be applying Sections 23, 24 & 31 to the same pieces of information.

Please see the legal annex for the sections of the Act that are referred to in this response.

Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and therefore there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test

Sections 24, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

Overall harm for neither confirming nor denying that any other information is held

Any disclosure under the Act is a disclosure to the world at large, and by confirming or denying the use of this specialist equipment at certain events, would show the criminals what the capacity, tactical abilities and capabilities of the MPS are, allowing them to target specific areas of the UK to conduct their terrorist activities.

To confirm or deny that this type of police tactic has or has not been used would enable those engaged in criminal or terrorist activity to identify the focus of policing activity across the UK. This would have the likelihood of identifying location-specific operations which would ultimately compromise police tactics, operations and future prosecutions as criminals could counteract the measures used against them.

The MPS neither confirms nor denies that such tactics have been used because to state that no information is held for one event regarding UAVs, and then exempt information held in another, would itself provide acknowledgement that UAV's have been used at that second event.

Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations. Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both National Security and law enforcement.

Public safety would be put at risk if it were confirmed or denied that UAV's were known to be used or conversely, were known not to have not been used at specific events.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying when or where UAV's are used, would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying the use of UAV's, law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

More crime would be committed and individuals would be placed at risk.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying whether UAV's were or are used would lead to a better-informed public

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24

By confirming or denying when, where and why UAV's are used within the MPS area would render security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Balance test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the MPS will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of the public at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the MPS is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by the criminal fraternity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in this area.

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether the MPS uses UAV's is not made out.

No inference can be drawn from this response as to the existence or not of any other information.


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ONS - 'Not possible to quantify the overall impact of the Olympics'!

Further to the Olympicsboostsh*t report on Games Monitor the rise in GDP was declared to be 1% not 0.7%. When it announced the figures the BBC reported the ONS as saying that 'beyond the effect of ticket sales, it was hard to put an exact figure on the Olympic effect, although it cited increased hotel and restaurant activity in London as well as strength from employment agencies.' This last statement is interesting as it is reported there was a decline in tourism numbers and in hotel occupancy but this was made up for with a rise in room yields because prices had been jacked up in anticipation of a tourism feast. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) had reported a plunge in visitors to attractions all over the UK during the summer, including the Olympics period.

The ONS makes a guarded statement about online retail sales where others were more outspoken about the decline. Retailers and restaurants were complaining at the start of the Games at the decline in customers and demanded TfL alter its transport advice and these impacts continued to be felt in particular areas like Greenwich and Leyton. The ONS stated that it had fixed Olympics ticket sales in the figures for this quarter even though the sales had actually occurred in previous months.

Statements from the ONS include a lot of possibles, mays, mights and 'no direct evidence':

*Employment agencies showed some strength in the quarter and it is possible that some of this strength was related to the Olympics. However, there was no direct evidence from survey respondents to support this

*Office administration: office administration was quite strong in the quarter but the evidence on any Olympic effect was mixed, with some respondents suggesting that it may have had an adverse effect, as opposed to explaining the strength

*Creative arts and entertainment activities: the arts and entertainment sector has been showing some strength for some time, with quite strong growth in the most recent quarter. There was some evidence from survey returns that output was higher in July and August because of the Olympics

*Accommodation: hotels showed greater activity in the quarter and this was one area where one might expect to see an Olympic effect, albeit mainly in London. There was some evidence from survey returns that output was higher in July and August because of the Olympics

*Food and beverage services: there was some strength in the food and drink sector and some evidence from survey returns that part of this might have been due to the Olympics

*Land transport: there was some strength in parts of the transport sector and some evidence from survey returns that this might have been due to the Olympics

*Retail: retail showed some strength in the quarter but there was very little evidence of any significant Olympic effect. Indeed there was some feedback from online retailers that sales were lower as consumers watched the Olympics instead of shopping online

*Motion picture, video and TV programme production: the data here were quite weak for the quarter and there was some evidence from survey respondents to support this weakness - 'people watching the Olympics instead'


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What's in a postcode?

Now the athletes have departed it's time to sell the real estate! First up is East Village, formerly known as the Athletes' Village. It seems the owners have asked the Centre for Economic and Business Research, which claims to provide 'leading economic forecasts and analysis', to help with offloading the stock. CEBR waxes lyrical over the advantages of the new E20 postcode in its 'unbiased and informative' presentation of the 'impressive liveability factors' it identifies.


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Paralympic sponsors kill, injure and disable people

By Steve Rushton

Why are corporations that are responsible for disabling people, and even killing people, allowed to brand their products at the Olympics?

This creates a disturbing hypothetical situation: Paralympians competing in London 2012 may have been disabled by the very corporations that their sporting prowess is promoting. More broadly, this draws attention to the number of people across the world that are disabled, killed and suffer due to corporate activities. The World Health Organisation attributes 1 in 5 deaths in the “developing” world to toxic and industrial pollution alone.[i] The most prolific killers include mining operations, the oil industry and metal production, which are all represented at the Games. A report by the Blacksmith Institute found that over 7 million lives were at risk from mining and ore processing, nearly 5 million from metal smelting, almost 3 million from heavy industry (metal casting, rolling, stamping) and just under 2 million from petrochemical industries.[ii] These sponsors of the Games are alongside companies not taking their responsibility for chemical disasters, who are involved in torture, illegal arms and weapons manufacturing .


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