London Olympics: police powers to force spectators to remove non-sponsor items, enter houses, take posters

The Olympics are coming to London, so our civil liberties are going out the window: because nothing epitomises the spirit of global competition and cooperation like corporate bullying and unfettered truncheon-waving.
Police will have powers to enter private homes and seize posters, and will be able to stop people carrying non-sponsor items to sporting events.

"I think there will be lots of people doing things completely innocently who are going to be caught by this, and some people will be prosecuted, while others will be so angry about it that they will start complaining about civil liberties issues," Chadwick said.

"I think what it will potentially do is to prompt a debate about the commercial nature of the Games. Do big sponsors have too much influence over the Games?"

Eyes turn to "value for money" London 2012 (Thanks, Bobby!)

(Image: More Riot Police a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Kashklick's photostream)


  1. Whatever happened to the good old days when this sort of thing would lead to a week of rioting? People only get to keep the rights they fight for.

  2. Once I thought of the Olympics as a gathering of the greatest amateur athletes in the world to compete in the best spirit of sport and patriotism. It used to sometimes make me cry when I thought of the majesty of it all, of all those people coming together and working together in one common spirit of brotherhood and competition.

    Now, I think of the Olympics as a huge commercial endeavor whose only purpose is to line their own pocketbooks. The “spirit” of the Olympics now just seems like a marketing ploy; its amateur status, to the tiny extent to which it still exists, just an excuse to not have to share the TV and endorsement money directly with the athletes. I don’t see any majesty to the games any more. I still admire the hard work and determination of the athletes, but I don’t watch the Olympics any longer.

  3. They can come into my house to seize posters? Seriously? When did this (terrible) law get passed and who was sleeping on the job that nobody told the world about it until now?

    Also what on earth is a “non-sponsor item”? My trousers aren’t sponsored by anyone, are the police then going to be seizing my trousers if I go to the Olympics?

  4. Bit early for this sort of story I’d think, but anyway: we had exactly the same story in Vancouver. Arguably because of the efforts of some civil liberties factions, the bylaws were ameliorated, but City Hall maintained it wasn’t intended to be as all 1984 as all that. I haven’t heard of anyone’s home being invaded during the winter Olympics to remove signs, despite the fearmongering. People affiliated with protest organizations being visited by the police as a friendly inquisition as to their lack of fealty to VANOC, well, that’s another thing.

    My tangentially related question is, why are the currently-running Paralympics in Vancouver being ignored by the protesters? Surely the same issues that were being demonstrated about during the Olympics still apply? No Paralympics on stolen Native land? Homes for the homeless before Paralympics? Come on guys. You don’t want to look like hypocrites, surely. It’s almost like the Paralympians don’t deserve the same treatment from the activists as the Olympians. I like to think they’d actually like being protested a little.

  5. So much for the Olympics NOT being a corporate elitist event. BTW, I live in BC and am disabled. Any extra benefits we may have been able to get in the past will no longer be available to help cover the cost of this years Olympics. That I was directly told by a Ministry worker here.

  6. The Olympics is about Professional Athletes slumming as amateurs with outlandish corporate sponsorship, political posturing and major waste of resources. The economic bondage required to host them is a ruinous endeavor for any city vying for the dubious honor. The whole thing lost its lustre for me long ago. This is just another example of why the Olympics have outlived their original intent and are just another corporate greedfest.

    And that makes it a good reason to find something more useful to do with your time. Why have to worry about whether you are properly shilling for THE MAN?

  7. I think the Guardian writer should just swallow their pens now. They were tremendously bashing the Vancouver 2010(tm) Olympics(R) – likely with a good reason, I tend to think – but they forgot that unlike Canada, the UK as already some inside civil liberties violating law, like treating photographers as criminal/terrorists/whatnot, etc.

    When I read about that bill in the UK ; and yes, Vancouver and the Federal Government passed similar stupidities, not their last time we might thing, I thought about that. It is getting worse.

    Good luck to you fellow Britons.

    Now if the sponsors where given the status of shareholder in the Olympics and be financially responsible of the debts incured…

  8. I never supported Chicago’s bid and I’m all the more glad that we didn’t get the 2016 games now. I can only imagine the thuggery in the name of “Olympic Spirit” that my city would have sponsored. As it was the “No Games” movement was harassed constantly by the city and Chicago 2016 Committee. Seeing them go down in flames was a bit of schadenfreude.

    The Olympics is a scam, pure and simple. Look at how they’ve locked down the IP, tighter than the Super Bowl (do I have to send the NFL money now?) and profiting obscenely off the attention the big draw pro-sports get. It’s not about the joy of sport, it’s about cash on the barrel. And under the barrel, and in neatly sealed envelopes that arrive in the dead of night filled with non-sequential Euros, and bearer bonds…

    1. You’re not the only one who’s glad to see that Chicago didn’t get the Olympics. The sheer disruption of having the whole city in lockdown would be unbearable.

      I like watching the competitions, but I hate the corporate douchebaggery that has invaded the Olympics. The only way I could stand to watch the NBC Vancouver coverage was to watch it using a DVR.

      @ acb #19: It’s already happening – we’ve already had Beijing ’08, and Sochi ’14 is coming up. The UK is already well down the authoritarian path, so it isn’t a bad fit.

  9. Let’s not forget about the treatment of the competing slaves from various dictatorships. One of the most sickening things I ever saw in my life were the feet of one of Saddam Hussein’s Shiite slaves who had the temerity to do poorly in an Olympic race that one of the Supreme One’s kids had a bet on. Afterwards the guy woke up in the dungeons of the Iraqi Olympic Headquarters where they made sure he’d never run again. He was comparatively lucky when compared against most people who came to Saddam’s personal attention though: he lived to get out (long story) and live out in Mississauga, Canada as a refugee.

  10. Amateurism was overrated, in that (at least in the pre-war period) it was a tool of elitism. Some of the biggest ‘Olympic’ sports, such as track cycling had a global for-pay competition circuit at the time of the revival, but these athletes were excluded.

    Why? – because the Olympics was about the purity of athleticism, and the ‘purest’ athletes were those found in elitist university athletics programs and the officer class of the military. Who else has the horse riding, pistol shooting, sword fighting, swimming and running skills needed to compete in the modern pentathlon?

  11. Hey don’t forget the rampant nationalism that comes with the Olympics. Rather than individuals being recognised for their sporting achievement we are fed constant reminders of which nations have the most medals. It is not even possible to enter as an independent athlete.

    1. Thanks for saying that. I thought I was the only one to be baffled at taking pride in a geographic accident of birth.

  12. “Police will have powers to enter private homes and seize posters, ” <- Really, REALLY want more information on this. Including how they got this power, and who I should be yelling to. My MP? Is ORG on this case yet?

  13. “Do big sponsors have too much influence over the Games?” is the wrong question.

    We should be asking, why have commercial interests been allowed to have influence over the police?

    1. “Do big sponsors have too much influence over the Games?” is the wrong question.

      We should be asking, why have commercial interests been allowed to have influence over the police?

      Well football clubs and others have been “buying” police respurces for a long time – but only to enforce law and order (mostly to control order – UK football crowds can be a tad unruly from time to time).

      But this use of a public/citizen police force to apply a commercial organisation’s whims in our public spaces is many steps too far. It proves we no longer have a public/citizen police force and now have a force who can be bought and deployed to enforce the commercial/political world’s whims irrespective of public law in any other respect.

      So if I stand on public land and hold up a non-sponser’s logo I get arrested? This is totalitarianism pure and simple (and not what I signed up for when I was born a free Briton). Imagine if a (group of) non-sponsor(s) paid 10,000 people £10 each to go and stand around outside Olympic spaces holding up logos. 10,000 arrests? “Our competitor believes in locking up people who use their competitors’ products”

      I loathe the IOC (not the Olympic events) and fail to see why UK politicians would kiss the IOC arses for the chance to incur huge debt, enrich some global commercial interests and f**k with our freedoms into the bargain. What if no cities bid? Please let that happen soon. The devil dies if he cannot buy new souls.

  14. “This deadly beating was brought to you by Coca Cola, official sponsor of the 2012 olympics”

  15. I have ignored the last two Olympics, and will continue to do so while this malarkey continues.
    Make it about sports instead of sponsorship. The sponsorship that would still be there, please have that beneficial to people, healthy and just generally in the spirit of sports, health and the improvement of the human body and mind.

    Coca Cola and McDonalds as main sponsors? Why not just go all the way and have sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies and steroid makers?
    These sponsorships just violate everything that should be good about these events. The paranoia in IP bull clears the rest of the good things out. Rotten from the inside.

  16. Mr Doctorow – since hi-viz is now short hand for state muscle, be it police or corporate, lets construct an eruv in london which describes an olympic/hi-viz-free zone for 2012.

    the whole thing is tawdry. i was dismayed when we got the olympics, simply because of the changes in my home town i knew this would bring about. enforced land grabs (sorry, compulsory purchase orders), large scale re-landscaping of a large part of the east end, etc. cities need their dead zones, or its retail parks all the way.

    to my mind, those 120 year old allotments that got buldozed were inestimably more valuable than this whole 10 day steroids-lycra-fest.


  17. I’m with arikol here, mostly. The Olympics are, and have been for a time, nothing but a corporate advertisement playground that happens to be in the same place as some minor sporting event.

    At least its starting to seem that way.

    When the Olympics were revived in the late 19th century, I bet everybody still had good sportsmanship and national pride in mind. Today, its just another money machine. There’s enough evidence for that, starting with the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, which were alright by their own standards, but bought off of the IOC because of the prestige and the money.

    I cannot say when that whole olympic spirit and sportsmanship got lost, but I can say that I don’t think it’ll ever come back, so really, all I can do here is pity the poor people whose towns are hosting the Olympics, and hope mine never does.

  18. As a recent victim of the IOC and its shenanigans in Vancouver, along with the local government’s thrill in selling our state out for corporate gain at the taxpayers expense, let me tell you this: You have been played, London.

    The sooner this wealth-shift charade masquerading as a ‘good’ gets stopped, the better for all.

    $6 billion and counting from a province with a population of 4 million — all to watch grown people play games and to instill a false pride that comes with unknown countrymen winning a hockey game.

    But at least it gives the government something to work with, namely a bunch of softened-up brains willing to completely disengage their own thinking in favour of the state propaganda.

    I regret to make known to others what is abundantly clear here, and that is that the collective wisdom among Canadians is now almost zero.

  19. I think it’s time to let the Olympics die if it can’t reform into something less corporatist. Maybe if people just refused to participate in it anymore until it does. I know that I’ll not contribute one more dollar in any shape or form to this organization.

  20. Will the laws against non-sponsored products and political speech apply only within stadia, or within an “Olympic Zone” of London, as similar laws did in Sydney in 2000? (The laws there remained on the books, and were used some years later for suppressing protests against the Catholic Church’s “World Youth Day”.)

    IMHO, given that the Olympics are a merchandising exercise which invariably involves notionally liberal states bending over to placate corporate sponsors by suspending civil liberties, perhaps it would be better if future Olympics were held only in totalitarian states, where the legal frameworks are already in place. Pyongyang 2016 perhaps? I hear the North Koreans put on a killer show…

  21. Makes me glad I live at the other end of the country to London. Chances of my door getting bust down by the police on the offchance I might have bootleg posters seems pretty slim (and I’m not planning to get any, not that that is especially relevant).

    Anything that attracts that much money is going to be corrupt. End of story.

  22. Why do cities queue up to host the Olympics? It just doesn’t add up as a proposition.

    So there’s this guy you know, and you’ve heard he throws a wicked party. So you invite him to host one at your house. “Sure”, he says, “but the place will need a bit of work first. Get an extension built. And a conservatory. And a swimming pool. We’re going to need lots of parking. And a wider driveway. Oh, and redecorate every room, please.”

    You agree, because after all, he throws a wicked party.

    The people start to arrive. The host charges them all a load of money to get in. He brings in his friends to sell them drinks, to provide the music, everything. Anybody else seeking a piece of the action is taken outside and beaten up. You get a cut of the proceeds, but it’s a drop in a bucket compared to what you had to spend on fixing up the house.

    The party ends, the host and his friends leave with suitcases full of cash, and everybody talks about what a wicked party it was. Word spreads, and sure enough other people are queueing up to have this guy throw a party at their place.

    You’re left with a hell of a hangover, a giant clean-up op, an expensively-upgraded house you’ve no need for, and decades of crippling repayments.

    But hey, it was a wicked party, right?

    1. Because a ton of money gets spent (and more and more and more every time it seems)

      And when you can make sure that money goes to your friends… it’s a good thing.

  23. I completely skipped the Vancouver Olympics coverage this year. Wasn’t Salt Lake City just on, like, two months ago? It feels like it.

    I hear the London is going to have shark-jumping as an official event.

  24. “Police will have powers to enter private homes and seize posters, and will be able to stop people carrying non-sponsor items to sporting events.”

    [Citation needed]

    Seriously, it’s not like the police can just invent powers on the fly. We do have laws and a parliament in this country, so I’m pretty sure no-one is going to vote for a bill that allows the police to break my door down, rip down my Andy Warhol print and stick up a Nike “Just Do It” or “Lisa Simpson giving a blow job” [see BoingBoing, passim] poster.

    1. Thank you Freddie, I’d been waiting for that. Has anyone got [Citation needed] as a tattoo yet?

  25. I’ve been against wasting our money on this travesty since the beginning, to the extent of avoiding as many products labelled “proud sponsor” as possible. After reading this, now I really would consider grabbing a flaming pitchfork and marching on Downing Street, should the call to arms be made!

  26. How can this possibly be lawful?

    Whatever happened to “An Englishmans house is his castle”?

    I very much suspect that this rule violates principals of english law. Someone should test it.

  27. Are advertising concerns really a police matter?! Don’t think they’ll have enough on their plate already?
    What a waste of resource and money.

  28. Corporations taking over the Olympics is one thing – since when do corporations get to suspend civil liberties and dictate police policy?

    Either this article is premature / inaccurate (I too am looking for the citation) or represents a complete suspension of the rule of law.

  29. Maybe it’s because I speak AE, but I’m confused about the word “posters”. Will the police enter houses and arrest people making blog posts, will they rip down an old Rolling Stones picture covered in tour dates, or are they looking for pieces of cardboard attached to a stick that says “Give equestrian medals to the horse” or “Make Love Not Sport” or the like?

  30. @andygates, Camp Freddie — actually the laws already exist; the Home Secretary gets the power to grant the police additional arbitrary powers in particular defined areas and for limited times buy statutory instrument (that is, by saying “make it so”). See the Criminal Justice Act (as amended, etc) and various other supporting legislation including the Civil Contingencies Act.

  31. Wait, what? Since when do corporations get to decide what I can display in my own home? And since when can the police enter and confiscate things without a warrant? And where is the law saying that displaying these things is a crime and giving the police the authority to remove them?

    Seriously, Britain, it’s time you stood up and made a stand. Your police forces are beyond control. They aren’t upholding the law, they are making their own laws. Without a trip through the legislature and a signed piece of paper, any so called “law” these police forces make up is meaningless and enforcing it is an abuse of powers. From public photography, to the posters in your home, to the clothing you wear, the police are enforcing their own will without a law to back it up. For God’s sake, freedom, and everything else your country stands for, do something already!

  32. Having just lived through Vancouver 2010 I would like to point out that Vancouver City Council approved the same bylaws, until people started pressuring City Hall and they had to clarify the rules and essentially declawed the whole process.

    I can only recommend the same to the people of London who need to make sure that their elected officials understand that this is not okay.

    Having said this, as much of a corporate love fest as it was you do get to meet some interesting people and Vancouver for two weeks had a completely changed feel too it.

    Of course now I am waiting for the bill and the real hangover to begin.

  33. I really can’t think of a better use for a taxpayer-funded police force than to protect the commercial interests of multinationals by violating the basic human rights of citizens.

  34. Just so we know.

    The Guardian:
    “The government was accused tonight of giving itself draconian powers to clamp down on protests at the 2012 Olympics. Critics said the powers were so broad they would potentially give private contractors the right to forcibly enter people’s homes and seize materials…”

    “Police will have powers to enter private homes and seize posters…”

    “Police powers to force spectators to remove non-sponsor items, enter houses, take posters.”

  35. I absolutely hate sports but love all things embodying Fail and/or WTF. I have a good feeling that the London Olympics will be spectacularly entertaining for me.

    Trademark insane massive organization meets Orvellian power tripping surveillance state.

  36. Corporations taking over the Olympics is one thing

    It’s not so much that the Olympics have been taken over by giant, soul-stealing corporations. The IOC is a giant, soul-stealing corporation.

  37. Is this really true? It’s not 1st April yet y’know! If so, I’m speechless. Still, I suppose it’s a way of keeping bored police occupied, rather than have to send the poor dears out on the streets catching REAL criminals like muggers, murderers, rapists, molesters and burglars, eh?

  38. Have you ever met a professional bobsledder? Or a professional table-tennis player? While pros do exist in these sports most athletes (at least in Canada) at the Olympics still need to work a day job to be able to pay for their training. Don’t begrudge them their sponsorship money, it’s what allows them to pursue their dreams.
    Also, don’t complain about big corporations sponsoring the games unless you are prepared to pay for all of it with tax dollars. Are the rules draconian? Yes. Do we need to use the big spenders? Probably. So the real question to investigate is, why do the Olympic Committees feel like they need to do so much to attract their sponsors? Why can’t they just say “Give us your money, and we will put your name everywhere.”? Why do they also need to say “Oh, and we will make sure none of you competitors get their names anywhere.”

    1. Also, don’t complain about big corporations sponsoring the games unless you are prepared to pay for all of it with tax dollars.

      Personally, I could live just fine in a world without luge. You want to be an athlete, go right ahead. I don’t want to pay for it with my tax dollars and I certainly don’t want to see local businesses ground under so that some curler gets to pursue his dream.

    2. And we’d be required to pay with it with our tax dollars how?

      Economic realities are striking home. Schools paying for busing to away games is falling by the wayside. Fuel to run busses for basic education is getting so expensive that schools are eliminating it.

      And you’d expect the general population to pay even more for the Olympics through taxes? Sorry, but the economic hits and public money already taken for the goofy remakes and disruption that create the post-Olympics hangover are starting to hit home.

      Just another political beast wanting to feed from the public money trough, come get your earmarks, subsidies and special interest funding here. Line up for the free money, tax revenues are endless…

      1. You are required to pay for it with your tax dollars because the politicians that you (or at least most of you) elected decided that they wanted to host the Olympics. England is a democracy, you can’t shirk responsibility for the decisions of your politicians. It’s your job to police them and make sure they do the job you hired them to do.
        My point is that if you decide to host something the size of the Olympics you need to have a way to pay for it. England has decided to host. So now you gotta pay for it somehow.

  39. @abstract_reg said: “Don’t begrudge them their sponsorship money, it’s what allows them to pursue their dreams.”

    You can’t shake hands with the devil and say your only kidding. The “sponsorship” helps drive a free market economy that is ruining our planet.

    Athletes may be just “following their dreams”, but there is a real cost for that dream that everyone else (and the environment) has to pay.

  40. “Police will have powers to enter private homes and seize posters, and will be able to stop people carrying non-sponsor items to sporting events.”

    i think this is a joke, just like the georgian fake report this week-end. Isn’t it, Cory ?

  41. abstract_reg -“England is a democracy, you can’t shirk responsibility…”

    Sorry, that turns out not to be the case. England is ruled by one of two self-selected oligarchies, the one in power being periodically selected by a few thousand voters in a few constituences (about a twentieth of the total) where their supporters are for historical reasons roughly equal in number.

    Even members of the oligarchies have little influence over the policies of their leaders; they are determined by which “special interests” can currently offer the leaders the most advantage, power, money, promise of future advantage, etc…

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