I can’t help but wonder why they want to scare us this time (from the Guardian):
The US has raised repeated concerns about security at the London Olympics and is preparing to send up to 1,000 of its agents, including 500 from the FBI, to provide protection for America’s contestants and diplomats, the Guardian has learned.
American officials have expressed deep unease that the UK has had to restrict the scope of anti-terrorism “stop and search” powers, and have sought a breakdown of the number of British police and other security personnel that will be available next summer.
I’ve been thinking about going to the London Olympics. I still have friends around London who would be willing to put me up for a couple of weeks. I know the city, so won’t have to wonder which tube station will get me from Canary Wharf to Wembley Stadium (Take the DLR to Waterloo station and switch to the brown line that goes to Harrow & Wealdstone, and make sure you have enough on your train pass to account for the zone change). The only drawback is getting tickets to events, because the Brits do manage to make that process more difficult than it has to be.
But this “The terrorists will get you” freak out is nothing short of a threat to democracy.
Back in 2008, you didn’t hear anything about the U.S. sending the FBI to Beijing. Why?
Because China is a police state. It doesn’t believe in democracy. The Chinese secret police were everywhere: following people around, bugging telephones and monitoring internet usage of foreigners. Somehow, U.S. officials didn’t find that troubling. Actually, it represented a distorted comfort because security was NOT going to be an issue.
The last time the American post-911 sports paranoia was in full flower was in 2004 for the Olympics in Athens. I remember that one well. We were at the beginning of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The threat of al-Qaeda was real. Crowds in countries throughout Europe were mad at the U.S. If George Bush made a foreign trip, you were guaranteed a riot.
And, I can’t emphasize this enough, the Olympics were in Athens. You couldn’t find a European country more likely to be an easy target for terrorists, because the general feeling was that the Greeks couldn’t get their act together to even have a decent Olympics, let alone a safe one.
So I went to the Athens Olympics. Took my then 13-year-old son. I barely planned for it. One day I though, “Hey, they Olympics are in Athens and we’re in Brussels. It’s not that far away!” Bought plane tickets a couple of weeks before the Olympics. Arranged a hotel the weekend before we were scheduled to land in Athens. Went to the Internet to get tickets for individual events a couple of days before we got on the plane.
We had a really good time. We saw the events we wanted to see. Boxing, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, women’s softball, track and field and some other things I don’t quite remember.
U.S. wins the softball gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens
We were at the game where the U.S. women won the gold medal in softball. We saw the team that won the men’s basketball gold medal win one of their earlier round games (the U.S. team of superstars sucked that year).
We went to one night of boxing where there was actually a security concern. A bunch of drunken Irishmen showed up for a match between one of their countrymen and a Cuban. My son and I were in the row behind them. The Irish came in rowdy and got noisier as the fight progressed. By the final round, the Irish were yelling, and I watched as the nervous ushers requested police reinforcements. When the winner was announced, the place was full of cops waiting for the riot that would come when the decision went in favor of the Cuban. I told my son if things got crazy to get away from the area as fast as he could … I’d make sure he didn’t get hurt.
The announcement was made. The Cuban won.
And the Irish moaned and left. That was it. That was the biggest threat I saw at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
So why was I able to plan so badly and see so much of the Olympics?
Because in 2004, the American media were telling people in the states how dangerous it was to leave the country. That everyone in the world hated us. That the terrorists were waiting to get us. That today’s green alert was going to turn yellow and then go orange in anticipation of imminent danger and red was inevitable. The country was cowering in fear.
So no one went to Athens. Most of the events we attended were half full (I’ll be an optimist here). The best seats, taken in blocks by American corporations, were empty because no one would make the trip to such a dangerous place.
So the only thing that stopped me from getting any ticket I wanted was the limit on the amount of money I had in my bank account.
One of the clearest memories of the 2004 Olympics was watching people from every part of the world go to events waving their country’s flag. People were waving their colors as they went from event to event. But the only time I saw an American flag waved by someone just walking around the Olympic venue was when my son and I waved the one we brought. You see, the Americans who did show up in Athens kept a low profile. No one wanted to reveal their national origin, because the terrorists were going to get us. There were NBA superstars that year who said they weren’t going to Athens because of concern over security. Oddly that didn’t stop any of the WNBA superstars like Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird from showing up. (That was when I lost respect for the NBA.)
So, my son and I, waiting to go into a U.S. women’s basketball game, are the only ones holding an American flag outside the arena. Here’s the other odd thing: Americans gravitated toward us. “Where are you from?” “Do you feel safe here?” “Do people yell at you because you’re an American.”
And now, we see that for 2012, our old buddy, fear of foreigners, is showing its face again.
The police response to the London riots, the arrest of a security guard at the London Olympics site earlier this year, and the arrests made shortly before the visit of the Pope last year have provoked anxiety among US officials. The repeal of section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allowed police to stop and search suspects with near impunity, also raised alarm. One well-placed Whitehall source said the entire Olympic security operation was being prepared “with the US in mind”, adding: “The US will have no qualms in saying it is unsafe. If something happens and we say we did not have enough people, we are finished.” …
In addition to the official American security entourage, the sponsors of the Games, including Coca-Cola, will have their own private security details, adding to the complexity of the policing operation.
Well, geez. The Coke cops will be there. I feel safer already.