Through The Eyes Of The Olympics Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Mega-events, such as the Olympics, are highly prized by national planners, and simultaneously hold political, economic and cultural happenings. They are global spectacles, used by nations to impact directly on urban generation and international standing (Alhert, 2006). Their nature is one that is non-routine, and of limited duration, requiring management of large movements of visitors, co-coordinators, and athletes.

Characteristics of mega-events makes them exceptional (Fussey and Coaffee, 2012), demanding organisation and planning that requires significant alteration to the governance of the host city or country. This, and the vulnerability that follows from this, makes them a key target for security practices. The pressure faced by host nations from international committees, such as the International Olympics Committee (hereafter the IOC) plays a significant role on the domestic security arrangements (Bennett and Haggerty, 2011)

The Summer Olympic Games have been called sport mega-events, because of their scale (Roche, 2009). They are highly visible, deeply symbolic occasions that take place in large cities, combining intensive media coverage with astringent security and surveillance strategies (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009: 257). The exceptional nature of these events requires examination of the threats they face, the worlds counter-terror measures, extensive surveillance technologies, and how these intensified measures are often legitimized in perpetuity as part of the legacy of the games (Coaffee et al.2011:3314). Further to this, the essay will go on to show how surveillance technologies are subsequently deployed across large swathes of populations, highlighting the prominent point of the public and private sector surveillance.

Traditional Risk

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a shift in national and international threats (Lum et al. 2006).Originally national borders were considered primary vulnerabilities, more recently, ballistic missiles have taken a side line to more topical city threats, such as attacks on subways. The way cities are demonised in terrorist rhetoric, for example, means mega-events intersect with a range of complex global processes.

The scale of the Olympics makes them susceptible to these inherent complexities, most notably seen in the terrorist attack on the Israeli national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Such events demonstrate the extremes of societal risks that are observed. With this said, traditional hazard, such as the adaptation and logistics of mega-events through infrastructure - seen in the construction of venues, present external risks, as they alter the urban environment (Bubank et al. 2002). These risks have moved away from natural hazards towards man-made risks (Beck, 1992), and are ever-present, regardless of political context.

New Risk

Deterritorialization contributes to the global development of the Olympics, which in turn, gives way to global telecommunication, international travel and the migration and passage of goods across borders (Jennings, 2012), all elements that lead to the contagion of risk. Post 9/11, the climate of insecurity (Yu et al. 2009: 392) has affected security planning and games that are perceived to display a high-risk, naturally leading to an advanced security posture, with the planning of London 2012 being the most recent instalment.

Some scenarios may seem bizarre and outlandish to a non-security expert (Peter Ryan, 2002), and would be considered unthinkable; UFO invasion on the Olympic Park, for example (Kawash, 1997). For the security officials, considering all scenarios, however absurd, have now become common practice. The extremity of these scenarios is displayed in the U.S, where most military arguments about the future are an obsession with sci-fi, and a ruined future of a cityscape (Graham, 2010). New innovations, like the Boston Dynamics-built AlphaDog LS (Rundle, 2012), a robot able to cope with all types of landscapes, reinforce these concerns. The concept of thinking the unthinkable has allowed even more extreme precautions to be seemingly accepted by the public, in light of perceived threats.

As technology advances, host nations face growing pressure to meet the challenges presented to them by new forms of security vulnerabilities (Corer, 2012). Cyber-terrorism is one such example of new and growing threats. The Beijing Olympics faced with 12 million cyber-attacks per day (Ormsby, 2010). This type of threat to the Olympics illustrates the change in both security and globalisation risks very clearly. Taking note of the 2008 Olympic cyber-attacks, the UK government took on an initiative to introduce new cyber-security plans for the London 2012 games, through IT networks, to help prevent internet crime (Home-Office, 2010). In terms of security risk, there was a conscience effort made to ensure the UK government would not over-regulate and restrict the internet. Further to this, the proliferation of real-time risk management technology, an innovation developed from previous games in Athens and Salt Lake City (Jennings, 2012:135) into the 2012 Olympics, demonstrated how the UK consciously put international efforts in the heart of strategies improving cyber security (Ashford, 2012), which is evidence of a consideration of the globalisation risks and effects.

Foucaults position on governance, one generated from the governed rather than imposed by the government (1979) was seen to reconceptualise the role of government. The Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude (2012) quoted that the internet has flourished because it has been shaped by its users, not by governments, with this, focus should be mainly on the network structure of the internet, where the information-sharing groups collectively form a basis for governance (Beresford, 2003). Conceptually, management of these network structures and sharing-groups which lead to cyber terrorism should focus on deterrence, rather than punishment. In short, punishment achieves little, and the impacts of cyber terrorist attacks are much worse, due to the difficulty in stopping viruses spreading around the globe. Again, this is a risk born from the effects of globalisation.

Counter Terrorism

Threats to mega-events are present in different forms, seen in a diverse range of groups that target them. Right-wing extremists were charged with the intent to cause explosions around the Olympic site in Sydney 2000, and ethno-nationalists who attacked the power supply to the opening ceremony in Barcelona 1992 (Fussey and Coaffee, 2012) are just two examples of threats to mega-events that embody an atypical nature.

The threat of international terrorism at a mega-event was first seen with the 1972 Munich Olympics, and became the landmark of Olympics and terrorism being linked in popular consciousness (Fussey, 2011), symbolising how terrorism is an eminent threat to all major events internationally. One of the more unusual aspects of the international threat is that many groups who target events have more local socio-political motives, such as the Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (Richards et al. 2011), contrasting to the more evident international element of the games. Such acts cause instability to the usual global security models used to police these events, (Fussey and Coaffee, 2012). The home-grown radicalism that was blamed for the 7/7 bombings in London can be seen as an example of an act with a local socio-political motive, caused by global issues - another effect of globalisation - which came to global attention, and had a profound effect on the 2012 Games.

Since 9/11, the war on terror has been in prominent force, when dealing with global issues. In light of London 2012, UK police and local authorities referred to the hosting of the event as the greatest security challenge that the UK... since the Second World War (Gradham, 2009).Cities bids for the Olympics have had to demonstrate how well they are able to deal with international terrorism in its many forms, and bidding teams have to parade the citys anti-terrorist resilience before international audiences. Such proceedings create public support, bringing in large security budgets, along with new powers of social control (Giulianotti and Klauser, 2012:316).

The recognition of London as a world city has bought it to the forefront of tourism, drawing in visitors and terrorists alike, (Ghaffur, 2007). The threat of terrorism to London, and the need for Olympic security, was exhibited in a very short space of time; the debate of security for London 2012 began on July 7th 2005, following the suicide bombings, just a day after London won the Olympic bid. Londons transport system was overcome by four suicide bombers in an attack that killed 52 people (Guardian, 2010). These events were significant in illustrating the vulnerabilities of London and the Olympics to external threats and contingencies. Further to this, the attacks showed the spatial and temporal displacement of terrorism, where attacks do not need to necessarily take place at the time of the event to cause an impact.

Security coming home

The Olympic Games of 2004 were an example of the interaction between surveillance and social control. There was intense monitoring in Athens, which saw interconnected networks of electronic surveillance gadgetry that were web-like, in that it spanned out, and was able to expand to the whole city, through vehicle tracking devices and motion detectors, for example (Samatas, 2007). These forms of control reflect the idea of Panoptican, from the political philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1791) which was later advanced conceptually by Foucault (1977), stating that, in the contemporary service of social control, the state takes on an all-seeing observation role, probing and monitoring the activities of all citizens. Given the existing level of public and private surveillance in the UK, the superpanoptic approach that was piloted in Athens 2004 was easily integrated into the heart of the 2012 Olympics. London has more public and private CCTV cameras than any other city in the world, and through this, the idea of total surveillance became realistic (Reenie, 2008). The 2012 mega-event was a stimulus to the process of totalitarian intrusiveness.

Policing has the general role of dealing with disorderly conditions in neighbourhoods, and is present in myriad police strategies, ranging from order maintenance to zero tolerance strategies (Eck & Maguire, 2006). The work of the police today is very much influenced by the private sectors and co-operations, where total-security now becomes part of the spectacle of mega-events (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009). London 2012 saw the Metropolitan Police take conscious measures in ensuring their first steps would be to put technological footprints across London, (Sugden,2012;423). New CCTV advancements were able to integrate Londons CCTV cameras, and follow individuals around the city (Goold, 2004), enhancing the idea of a surveillance ring (Coaffee, 2004:207) to allow tracking of the movements of traffic and people.

New technologies have been used as a medium to exercise the big-brother state. Many public transport vehicles, along with the VIP buses that were used in the London games, had been equipped for the authorities to recognise if drivers were acting erratically, a trend often seen in hijacking (Morgan, 2008). Here, however, lay a fundamental question in what act could be deemed as erratic, and what qualifications personnel should have to make such decisions, and control it. All of this fits well with Foucaults (1980) early work on govermentality and that power only exists when put into action and that it is belonging to institutions rather than the individuals that allow the institutions to function. Put simply, measures that prevent certain behaviour leads to the control of individuals.

In keeping with public reassurance, it now does not matter too much as to whether or not the security systems actually work, but rather what their proclaimed standards are. As these events are now a recognised target for security threats, society now gives leeway to governments, even if these protections transgress from the constraints that are normally accepted by the citizens, as a result of securitization (Waever, 1995). These notions were observed in 2012, where governments and security-related interest groups often magnified in the public mind the terrorist threat and climate of fear, all in aid of justifying the use of these control strategies that are used to counter anti-social behaviour while simultaneously introducing new controls such as identity cards that link citizens to a state held database (Coaffee and Wood, 2006). As the Olympics are for a limited period, it is assumed that they are only a temporary security zone, lasting for the duration of the games. This, however, is not the case as the London Olympics and its security practices are not confined to the time, but a continuum of the increasing state of security and surveillance (Wells, 2010).

The architectural methods of Secure by Design (Jennings and Lodge, 2011) also extend to the outer surrounding areas, where explosives may be hidden; in litter boxes and drains (Gold and Gold, 2010). These methods are far from temporary, but this reconfiguration spreads beyond the time of the event under the title of legacy, where counter-terrorism design features are used to embed security in community areas, thus legacy is often used to legitimate broader and more long-term goals.

The Olympics often allow regeneration programmes to take place, and become a catalyst for the transformations of parts of the city, as was seen in London. The official Olympics website (2012) stated that neglected sections of East London would be redesigned into the East Village, a complex designed to be converted into thousands of affordable homes. These transformation, however, do not always hold a positive rhetoric, and can become sites of social cleansing, as was seen in the relocation of residents in Newham to the city of Stoke-on-Trent, many miles away (Edward, 2012;73).

Military Urbanism

Sports have often been linked to the wide discourse of urban growth and regeneration (Schimmel, 2006), aiding in a new form of Foucaults Boomerang effect (Prozorov, 2007) which has been fuelled by the extending neoliberal globalisation. A form of this affect is the way military and security complexes now try and apply defence-style technologies to the domestic sites of the city. This is mirrored well in light of the Olympics, where high tech security surveillance technology, originally from the battle-field, is now used in mega-events.

Military-security complex works in two ways. The first is by implementing direct military-type approaches to security. The failed work of the contractor G4S for London 2012, and the mobilisation of British troops, demonstrated how traditional military approaches will always remain necessary. In this instance, the military were asked to provide an extra 3, 500 troops to guard the London Olympics. These games show that despite new technologies, the Olympic Games continue to appear over-reliant on the armed forces (Guardian, 2012).

The second way is by using the forces of existing military personnel. Working with these approaches does not necessarily mean that one is moving away from the past, ignoring the strength of military practices, but rather adding a contemporary twist to the traditional militaristic and urban transformations (Graham, 2010). These contemporary security strategies work through the blurring of boundaries between military and civilian spheres.

This complex also allows analysis to be viewed through the window of globalisation and marketing. The use of security technologies in mega-events is a multi-billion dollar industry (Giulianotti and Klauser, 2012). State Leaders are encouraged to join booming homeland security markets, because these markets of technology grow very rapidly in times of economic decline. The Olympics not only showcase world-class athletes, they showcase world class security technologies and services from our industry (Bristow, 2008); security companies pilot and display their exemplary technologies, in the hope that it will lead to them being transferred into a more routine social environment. Israel is one such example. Recognised as the worlds leading participant in the security and surveillance industrial complex (Brzezinski, 2004), the countrys long history in dealing with suicide bombers, along with its highly developed and hi-tech economy, gives it the capacity to exploit the climate of fear that surrounds todays major sporting events. With this said, Israels representatives are heavily involved in the planning and facilitation of mega-event security. London 2012 was an example of this, as Israeli initiatives saw aircrafts being used for crowd surveillance, an expertise often used by the Middle Eastern country for population control (Kosmas, 2012).

Security companies are not the only organisations that benefit from the Olympics. More international impact is in the form of commercial sponsors, the worlds largest growing form of marketing (IEG Network, 2001). Sponsors are very willing to invest in the games, as they believe the spirit of the spectacle means that spectators are regularly exposed to promotional messages under favourable conditions, where the customers can be relaxed and absorb corporate messages. (Abratt et al, 1987). A by-product of being a sponsor is the ability to temporarily relocate some of the staff to the host nation and allow investments to be made. This is a clear example of globalisation. The paradox here, however, is that once a hallmark is made between the corporate sponsors and the games, their worldwide officers and staff becomes targets, which could lead to reluctance to participate. Further to this, the host nations terrorism threat level provides another reason why sponsors may refuse to participate in the events. This causes a massive crossover with countries looking like safe havens of security for a world-wide spectacle. In short, sponsors will be reluctant to participate in events that do not have a high counter-terrorism mechanism.

Mega-events   present a special platform for understanding the relationship between large-scale security practices and globalisation. Cities that host  mega-events are now expected to show a strong form of anti-terrorist resilience, the security plans of the Olympics have been  re-examined  following the 9/11 attacks. Athens was the first city to experience the broad security web (Network of Independent Experts, 2003) which has evolved to combat the changing nature of terrorism for example through sophisticated CCTV systems and access to vehicle information. The 2012 Olympics is the most recent example of how securing the spectacle (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009:259) advances beyond the infrastructure, and into the economic sector and the impact on humans (Coaffee and Johnston, 2007). These new strategies, in light of the new threats, have allowed the state to justify their stronger surveillance on citizens.

Olympics cultivate a legacy of networks and habits that have an impact not only on the individuals that attend, but on the citizens of the city, a legacy that is embossed into the city itself. Following the Olympic period, surveillance technologies, urban redevelopment, and other transformations, remain the skeleton of security enforced measures that frame and film everyday social life.