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Olympics: the alien invaders that destroy our cities


(Image by Smuzz)

A topical message from our overlords

The zen of the underwater treadmill

Something I enjoy: Specialized equipment that looks completely and utterly ridiculous when you watch people using it out of context.

Case in point, this advertisement for the HydroWorx X80 Underwater Treadmill. You have never seen Olympic-caliber runners look sillier. (Sadly, it's not entirely underwater. When I first saw the name of the clip, I was really hoping for guys in scuba gear.)

Also: I've apparently reached the age where current Olympians look to me like they ought to be too young to drive. Crap.

Thanks, Eli Kintisch

Brandishing the Olympic Torch

Photo: Zoelee

London Olympic committee says you're only allowed to link to their site if you have nice things to say

James Losey from New America Foundation sez,

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal, who has estimated how long it would take to read every privacy policy you encounter highlights an interesting bit from the "Linking Policy" in the Terms of Use for the London 2012 website:

"a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner."

Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.

What are you going to do about it?

(Thanks, James!)

McDonald's chip monopoly at London Games relaxes one hairsbreadth

The McDonald's sponsorship deal at the Security Games in London meant that Olympic workers are not allowed to buy chips (AKA fries) unless they come with fish. A chorus of complaints from site workers has led to a relaxation of the sponsorship terms so that workers (but not visitors) can buy their chips from the vendor of their choice, even if they're not served with fish.

From The Guardian's Robert Booth:

It all results from one of the stranger twists of Olympic planning. McDonald's sponsorship deal included the exclusive right to sell chips in and around Olympic venues. Other caterers had negotiated special rights to serve chips with fish – but not chips on their own, or with anything else.

Cue frustrated scenes at the lunch counter in the ceremonies catering area where staff were toiling over the staging for Danny Boyle's 27 July opening extravaganza. "Please understand this is not the decision of the staff who are serving up your meals who, given the choice, would gladly give it to you, however they are not allowed to," read a notice pinned up by staff. "Please do not give the staff grief, this will only lead to us removing fish and chips completely."

"It's sorted," said a spokesman for Locog. "We have spoken to McDonald's about it."

But the embargo will hold in other areas. That means no chips with anything other than fish anywhere else in the park unless spectators dine at McDonald's.

I know a couple of people on the lighting and automation crew at the Security Games and they report that there's a mass lunchtime exodus from the site by its workers every day as they troop off to find anything to eat that isn't McDonald's.

Chip-hungry Olympic workers celebrate freedom from McDonald's monopoly

(Image: Big Mac meal with Chocolate Shake, Fillet-O-Fish, Chicken McNuggets - McDonalds, Hume Hwy AUD16.80, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from avlxyz's photostream)

Olympic missiles on your roof, whether you want 'em or not

Hey, guess what? If you live in the UK and the army wants to put surface-to-air missiles on your roof, you don't get a say in it.

Google and NBC stage “War Games” to prepare for hacker attacks on Olympics online coverage

Photo: london2012.com.

The WSJ's Joel Schectman reports that NBC and Google are conducting “war games” in at least three countries, in preparation for possible hacker attacks or hardware screwups that could interrupt web streaming of the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London, which begin this month.

The planned online streaming, if successful, will be the largest-ever online offering of a sports event.

For the past nine months the network’s online team, together with Google, which is managing the streaming of the games, have simulated hundreds of disruptive scenarios, some lasting eight hours. They have simulated a range of problems from broken broadcast encoders to traffic overloads and hacker assaults on the systems, NBC staff told CIO Journal.

“We have it very well-scripted, so we know that when a problem occurs who is on point and what steps we need to take,” said Eric Black, vice president of technology for NBC Sports and Olympics. “At some point during the games there’s likely to be an outage, but the goal is for us to be on top of that and have no end-user impact.”

Read more: NBC, Google, Stage “War Games” To Prepare for London Olympic Disruptions.

Sarah Robles: The strongest woman in America lives on $400 a month

Meet Sarah Robles. She can lift as much as 570 pounds. In last year's weightlifting world championships, she bested every other American—both female and male. Sarah Robles is going to the Olympics in London this summer. But at home, in the United States, she lives on $400 a month.

Track star Lolo Jones, 29, soccer player Alex Morgan, 22, and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, are natural television stars with camera-friendly good looks and slim, muscular figures. But women weightlifters aren't go-tos when Sports Illustrated is looking for athletes to model body paint in the swimsuit issue. They don’t collaborate with Cole Haan on accessories lines and sit next to Anna Wintour at Fashion Week, like tennis beauty Maria Sharapova. And male weightlifters often get their sponsorships from supplements or diet pills, because their buff, ripped bodies align with male beauty ideals. Men on diet pills want to look like weightlifters — most women would rather not.

Meanwhile, Robles — whose rigorous training schedule leaves her little time for outside work — struggles to pay for food. It would be hard enough for the average person to live off the $400 a month she receives from U.S.A. Weightlifting, but it’s especially difficult for someone who consumes 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, a goal she meets through several daily servings of grains, meats and vegetables, along with weekly pizza nights. She also gets discounted groceries from food banks and donations from her coach, family and friends — or, as Robles says, “prayers and pity.”

She's not alone. Holley Mangold, the other American woman who'll be doing Olympic weightlifting in the same division, works part-time for a BBQ restaurant and lives in a friend's converted laundry room.

In fact, while the biggest stars in the most-watched events can pick up million-dollar endorsement deals, the truth is that most Olympic athletes live on extremely modest incomes. That's especially true in countries like Canada, which lacks the kind of government support system you find in places like China and Russia, but also lacks the plethora of large and small private endorsement deals that are available to some (but not all) American Olympians.

I think this is interesting. Every time the Olympics come up, I hear friends and talking heads alike arguing that the amateur athlete no longer exists. Everybody in the Olympics is really a professional and that makes it all less exciting—or so goes the conventional wisdom. The reality is that, for the most part, we're talking about people who make big sacrifices to be able to compete at a high level in a sport they're obsessed with for its own sake, not because they're getting rich. Sponsorships, rather than tainting the sport, do also help some athletes know where their next meal is coming from. After reading some of these articles, I think the vast majority of Olympic athletes probably fall squarely into Happy Mutant territory.

Read the rest of Buzzfeed's profile of Sarah Robles

• Read the New York Times' profile of weightlifter Holley Mangold
• Ivestopedia: Olympic Athletes—Back to Reality
• Wired: Olympic Runner Fights to Change Sponsorship Rules
• ABC News: How Can Olympic Athletes Find a Real Job?
• Time Magazine: Keeping Afloat (which contrasts the profits of the U.S. Olympic Committee with the small incomes that support many Olympic athletes)

US Olympic Committee says sorry to knitters whom it claimed "denigrated" the games

The US Olympic Committee has apologized for describing the knitters' Ravelympics as "denigrating" to real athletes. Ravelympics are an activity on Ravelry, a community for knitters, in which members compete to complete knitting projects while watching Olympic events, producing hybrids like the "afghan marathon" and "scarf hockey." The Olympic Committee, worried that they will have a hard time raising millions for giant, evil companies like Dow Chemicals if knitters are allowed to share patterns that include the Olympic rings, sent a grossly insulting legal threat to the knitters of Ravelry:

We believe using the name "Ravelympics" for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

After a lot of hue and cry, the USOC said sorry, and suggested that knitters could give away the stuff they make to the USOC.

Jun 21 Statement from USOC Spokesperson Patrick Sandusky (Thanks, Gladys!)

Scottish cops auto-Godwin Olympic sceptic

Afraid of the Knock on the Door sez, "An old age pensioner, living in a residential care home, received a visit from the Scottish police plain clothes division following his letter to a local newspaper in connection with the Olympics due to be held in London this summer. He wrote about the connection of the torch relay with Germany in the 1930s. **Contains irony.**"

Mr Coull said: ''It was invented by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, to please his boss Adolf. Hitler loved the idea of the relay, and the connection with pagan mythology in ancient Greece, emphasising the Aryan nature of the games.''

The pensioner, who completed a history degree at Dundee University in his late 50s, said in his letter that he would be ''there to protest this fascist display'' on the Angus leg of the relay.

A few days after the letter appeared, Mr Coull and wife Keri received the surprise CID visit...

''I asked if protest was now illegal. They said no, it isn't, but there will be lots of folk out to cheer the Olympic torch, and we wouldn't want you to get hurt by them, or vice versa. I think they were a bit nonplussed that both myself and Keri were laughing so much. I assured them that I had no intention of hurting anybody.''

'I started laughing, and kept on laughing' — Olympic torch protester gets a police visit

G4S: the scandal-embroiled "private security" behemoth that will provide 10,000 "security contractors" to London 2012

Laurie Penny takes a look at G4S, the scandal-embroiled "private security firm" (they're not technical mercenaries because the "security" people who work from them are usually born in the same territories in which they operate) that is the world's second-largest private employer, after WalMart. The company is providing 10,000 "security contractors" to the London Olympics, like these people, who think that it's illegal to take pictures from public land. G4S has lots of juicy contracts around the world, like supplying security to private prisons in the West Bank where children are held. They're also the proud inventors of "carpet karaoke," a technique used at private asylum-seeker detention centres, which is a fancy way for "stuffing a deportee's face towards the floor to contain them."

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world's streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: "The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we're on to the wall, we've got your back." If that made any sense at all, I doubt it would be more reassuring.

Laurie Penny: Don't listen to what G4S say. Look at what they do

Austerity Jubilee: unemployed workers tricked into being Jubilee stewards, denied toilets, left to camp in the rain

Long-term unemployed workers say they were bussed to London to act as stewards for the Queen's Jubilee, told they would be paid for the work and cared for while in town. When they arrived, they were told they wouldn't get paid (this was "work experience" not a job), and were made to strip down and change into uniforms in public, pitch tents in the rain, sleep under a bridge, and left without toilet facilities for 24 hours. They were told that if they didn't accept this "training," they wouldn't be considered for work during the Olympics.

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday...

A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.

The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat trousers and polo shirts. She said: "They had told the ladies we were getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and rain." The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.

The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their tents in the dark.

Unemployed bussed in to steward river pageant

Official Protesters of the London Olympics suspended on Twitter


The Space Hijackers' Twitter account for their Official Protesters of the London 2012 Games has been suspended, following a complaint from the London Olympic committee:

Twitter. That harbour of free speech, undaunted by various Arab dictators. However, it seems that a quick word from LOCOG, the unelected body in charge of the 2012 Olympic Games, is enough to encourage Twitter to suspend our account. Apparently there's a danger people might think we're part of the Olympic delivery team. We're sorry if you were enjoying our tweets, we hope to be back up and running again, as soon as Twitter gets the joke. In the meantime, you might want to look at this website to get some background...

Twitter actually has a pretty clear policy on this: parody and protest accounts just have to have some indicator that they aren't the official item (e.g. "FakeCoke" or "CokeSucks" but not "OfficialCoke"). My guess is that Twitter's suspension of the account was on that basis. If so, it should be pretty straightforward to get it back up and running.

Oi! You Can't Protest Here! (Thanks, LDNBikeSwarm!)

Space Hijackers create Official Protesters programme for the London 2012 Olympics


Leah sez,

Bespoke troublemakers, the Space Hijackers, have announced that they are the Official Protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games. To this end, they've launched a site where you can register for tickets for the official protests. They have also outlined the top ten reasons why the Olympics are worth protesting against.

A spokesperson said "accept no imitation, we are the Official Protesters. We shall be taking steps to ensure no unauthorised protest occurs around the London 2012 Olympic Games".

The Space Hijackers stress that LOCOG, the IoC and the ODA should expect protest wherever Olympic legislation and regulation is applicable and enforced. An international network of Olympic protesters have partnered under the Protest London 2012 umbrella and are planning as invasive a campaign as the Olympic Games themselves. However, only those groups authorised by the Official Protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games will be allowed to express dissent.

Disclaimer: "Official Protesters", "Official Protester", "Official Protest", "Protest", "The Space Hijackers", "Space Hijackers", "Spacehijackers", "Space", "Hijacker" and "Hijackers" are protected under trademark and copyright. Unauthorised use without express written consent from the Official Protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Some background: as part of its campaign to win the games, the UK promised the International Olympic Committee that it would extend extraordinary privileges to it and its corporate partners. It's a criminal offense to use "London" and "2012" or "2012" and "Games" in a commercial context without authorisation. Yes, criminal: you can go to gaol for putting up a pub signboard that says "Watch the Olympic Games here today!" Parliament's Olympic lickspittles also delivered a law that gives the cops the power to enter your private home and remove anti-Olympics posters. And there are 10,000 private security guards on-site who insist that you're not allowed to stand on public land and take pictures, despite assurances from the government and police that they've been trained and briefed.

Here's an earlier Space Hijackers action: "Life Neutral" certification for arms dealers.

Official Protests for the London 2012 Olympics (Thanks, Leah!)

East London residents warned of surface-to-air missiles sited on their roofs for the Olympics

Residents of a gated community in east London got Ministry of Defence leaflets through their doors advising them that their roofs might be commandeered for surface-to-air missiles during the London Olympics this summer. The MoD assured them that the missiles on their roof "will only be authorised for active use following specific orders from the highest levels of government in response to a confirmed and extreme security threat". Gosh, the Olympics sure are wonderful.

Journalist Brian Whelan, a resident at the flats, said: "They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they're stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months.

"It's a private, gated community... We have an MoD leaflet saying the building is the only suitable place in the area.

"It says there will be 10 officers plus police present 24/7. I'm not sure if they are going to live in the building."

I'm just waiting for some of our local gang-kids to swipe a few of these.

Here's the brochure (PDF).

Charlie Stross points out that a wily terrorist who buzzes east London with an RC airplane and triggers a launch would succeed in tricking the MoD into showering a crowded residential area with blazing supersonic shrapnel. For bonus points, aim the RC plane to get the missile to shower the white-hot shrapnel over a crowded train station.

London 2012: Missiles may be placed at residential flats

Private security at London Olympic site illegally harasses photographers shooting from public land

A few of the 10,000 G4S private security guards hired to police the London Olympics have been videoed while illegally harassing photographers who were taking pictures of the Olympic site from public land. In the video, the guards make lunges for the press-cameras, put their hands over lenses, and make inaccurate statements about whether and where images may be taken of the site. Scotland Yard had previously assured the National Union of Journalists that the private security at the Olympics had been trained on the legality of taking images from public land.

They were totally wrong.

Peter Walker writes in The Guardian:

As they walked along one pavement, near the adjoining Westfield shopping mall, a G4S guard approached the group and told them they were not allowed to film, before trying to hold his hand over Hurd's camera.

A supervisor who arrived told the group that guards had been specifically instructed to stop people filming a nearby "security screening area".

She said: "We are told that we should refrain from letting anybody film the security screening area. Obviously, we don't want that filmed."

The supervisor appeared not to know the difference between filming on public and private land, likening the rules to those against taking pictures of security checks at London's Heathrow airport.

She added: "We're all here for the protection of the Olympic park. Obviously, if you don't care about that, that's your business. We care."

Olympic park security guards forcibly stop journalists from taking photos

London's dystopian Olympics: criminal sanctions for violating the exclusivity of sponsors' brands

As London ramps up for the 2012 Olympics, a dystopian regime of policing and censorship on behalf of the games' sponsors is coming online. A special squad of "brand police" will have the power to force pubs to take down signs advertising "watch the games on our TV," to sticker over the brand-names of products at games venues where those products were made by companies other than the games' sponsors, to send takedown notices to YouTube and Facebook if attendees at the games have the audacity to post their personal images for their friends to see, and more. What's more, these rules are not merely civil laws, but criminal ones, so violating the sanctity of an Olympic sponsor could end up with prison time for Londoners.

Esther Addley documents the extent of London's corporatism for The Guardian:

"It is certainly very tough legislation," says Paul Jordan, a partner and marketing specialist at law firm Bristows, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws. "Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly the IOC has."

As well as introducing an additional layer of protection around the word "Olympics", the five-rings symbol and the Games' mottoes, the major change of the legislation is to outlaw unauthorised "association". This bars non-sponsors from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with the Games. Expressions likely to be considered a breach of the rules would include any two of the following list: "Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve".

Using one of those words with London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver or bronze is another likely breach. The two-word rule is not fixed, however: an event called the "Great Exhibition 2012" was threatened with legal action last year under the Act over its use of "2012" (Locog later withdrew its objection).

The London Olympic bid insisted that these restrictions were necessary to get the sponsors, and of course, they were bidding against other cities who were also making promises to police their residents' free speech and personal expression. Each games' sponsor doubles down on the previous games' restrictions and surveillance, which suggests that by 2020, the winning bid will include a promise to imprison all non-attendees for the duration of the games, and permanently tattoo sponsors' logos on the faces and chests of all ticket-buyers.

Olympics 2012: branding 'police' to protect sponsors' exclusive rights

China Mieville's London: the (authentic) city and the (banks and surveillance) city

Writing in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, China Mieville blazingly describes two Londons: an exuberant, organic place that has been lived and built over and remade, bursting with energy and vitality; and a fearful, banker-driven collection of megaprojects and guard labour, where billions of pounds can be found to surround the Olympics with snipers and legions of police, but nothing can be found for the library on the corner, where the center of town is being purged of anyone but the super-rich, and where rioting has nothing to do with stop-and-search powers and poverty, and is the result of mere "pure criminality."

The Olympics are slated to cost taxpayers $14.7 billion. In this time of “austerity,” youth clubs and libraries are being shut down as expendable fripperies; this expenditure, though, is not negotiable. The uprisen young of London, participants in extraordinary riots that shook the country last summer, do the math. “Because you want to host the Olympics, yeah,” one participant told researchers, “so your country can look better and be there, we should suffer.”

This is a city where buoyed-up audiences yell advice to young boxers in Bethnal Green’s York Hall, where tidal crowds of football fans commune in raucous rude chants, where fans adopt local heroes to receive Olympic cheers. It’s not sport that troubles those troubled by the city’s priorities.

Mike Marqusee, writer and activist, has been an East London local and a sports fan for decades. American by birth, he nonetheless not only understands and loves cricket, of all things, but even wrote a book about it. He’s excited to see the track and field when it arrives up the road from him in July. Still, he was, and remains, opposed to the coming of the Olympics. “For the reasons that’ve all been confirmed,” he says. “These mega-events in general are bad for the communities where they take place, they do not provide long-term employment, they are very exploitative of the area.”

Stratford sightseers are funneled into prescribed walkways; going off-piste is vigorously discouraged. The “access routes,” the enormous structures are neurotically planned and policed. For the area to be other than a charnel ground of Ozymandian skeletons in 30 years, it will have to develop like a living thing. That means beyond the planners’, beyond any, preparations.

‘Oh, London, You Drama Queen’ (via Making Light)

Revised London Olympics logo, now with rioter!


A bit of unsourced net.wit: the new London Olympics 2012 logo.

Update: Here's the original, from PureEvil.