MISSILES on two blocks of flats (though, as fellow blogger Madame Miaow notes, "none on the posh blocks lining the Thames"), a warship, HMS Ocean, in the river, and thousands of troops -some fresh back from Afghanistan - drafted in to man checkpoints and guard the Games. No wonder some people are renaming the London Olympics the East London Military Tattoo.
That's an extra 3,500 troops on top of those already planned, a decision taken with only two weeks to go after it became clear private security giant G4S just has not recruited enough personnel.
'The home secretary, Theresa May, has insisted the late decision to call up 3,500 troops to guard the Olympics was not a shambles and claimed that the need for the extra military personnel "only crystallised 24 hours ago".She repeatedly refused to spell out what penalties the private security firm G4S would face for failing to provide the necessary trained security guards to meet their 10,000 target, insisting that the £283m contract was with Locog, the Olympics organising committee, and not the Home Office. She added that the taxpayer would not face an extra bill for the decision"
The news prompted one Facebook friend to post this sympathetic letter:Many thanks,
Dear Serving Soldier,
I appreciate that you may be a bit busy at the moment, but just before I give you the sack would you mind awfully helping out at a small sporting event we are holding in London this month. You see I have just spent £475,000,000 on a private firm to do the security but they trousered the money and cannot commit. I have managed to wangle an old warehouse for your accommodation & some rat packs for food, but you should be used to that by now.(Gotta keep the cost down L.O.L).
David Cameron.P.S. You're my favourites!
Apparently those squaddies who were expecting some well-earned leave have been told they will have to wait until some time after the Games, and by way of making it up them there will be another 14,000 Olympic tickets made available to the forces. Bet that cheers them up no end.
Meantime, beside geting used sooner than we expected to the sight of soldiers on the street, we are having a grandstand view of how marvellously private enterprise can be trusted to run massive publicly-funded projects.
We've been hearing more about G4S prepared for the Olympics.
Guards told how, with 14 days to go until the Olympics opening ceremony, they had received no schedules, uniforms or training on x-ray machines. Others said they had been allocated to venues hundreds of miles from where they lived, been sent rotas intended for other employees, and offered shifts after they had failed G4S's own vetting.
The West Midlands Police Federation reported that its officers were being prepared to guard the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which will host the football tournament, amid concerns G4S would not be able to cover the security requirements.
"We have to find officers until the army arrives and we don't know where we are going to find them from," said Chris Jones, secretary of the federation.
G4S has got a £284m contract to provide 13,700 guards, but only has 4,000 in place. It says a further 9,000 are in the pipeline.
A former police sergeant who signed up to work for G4S at the Olympics has told how he withdrew his application over fears the recruitment process was "totally chaotic" and the firm was simply looking for cheap labour.
Robert Brown, who served for 30 years with Kent police, claimed he knew many other retired officers who had decided against working at the Games for the same reasons.
He said he had been given verbal commitments that staff would be paid £14 an hour, but that the contract he received said he would be entitled to £6.05 an hour for working outside the venues, and £8.50 for working inside the stadium.
"It is actually very sad," Brown said. "I was looking forward to working at this historic event, but it would have been a waste of my time. The public needs to be aware of this."
Brown has grade one private security qualifications and worked for the Home Office, advising on covert operations, after he left the police.
He said he applied to G4S when the adverts started to appear in November last year. But he was not called for interview in Stratford, east London, until February.
"They were trying to process hundreds of people and we had to fill out endless forms. It was totally chaotic and it was obvious to me that this was being done too quickly and too late," Brown said.
The first training day involved presentations on how to be polite to members of the public, and follow-up training on how to pat people down.
"The instructors had been given a script that they had to stick to, and if you asked a question, they would not be able to give you an answer. The training was very basic and minimal. Having undergone their training I realised that they only wanted cheap labour.
It was reported tonight that the government knew, or should have known, G4S was having problems, back in April. Not just in the last 24 hours, as claimed by Theresa May. Evidently they were reluctant to admit that a capitalist company - the world's biggest security firm, and second biggest employer, just could not cope.
It could be worse. We could be talking about education, or the National Health Service. Matter of fact, in some parts of the country G4S is running the ambulance service. The company lost some work deporting immigrants after a man called Jimmy Mubenga died from asphyxiation while being handled by two of its guards. But it still runs some detention centres, including including the Cedars where families including children are detained. (Isn't it charming the way such places retain names that sound like comfy country homes, or places where elderly relatives are left to die?)
In Lincolnshire some police functions have been 'outsourced' to G4S, though Surrey police are reported to be having second thoughts about such an arrangement with G4S.
Meanwhile firms like Prospects which sent young people up to work for Jubilee security for nothing are being allowed to run schools, while Labour - or at least its MP Stephen Twigg - thinks that job too could be handed over to the army. It would be too much to expect our top politicians to have learnt anything from the shambles they have helped create.
Meanwhile, if all that sport - or manning security - makes you thirsty, you can forget your London Pride ...
...GOING for Exmoor Gold, or any other decent ale. As that esteemed journal, the London Drinker, published by the Campaign for Real Ale here in the capital, informs us:
The 2012 Olympics, a showcase for London and the rest of Britain, will be dominated by one beer brand – Heineken lager brewed in the Netherlands. Heineken’s domination extends beyond the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, to all the venues for the games, including Lord’s, the home of English cricket.
Heineken has “sole pouring rights” at Olympic events. The London 2012 Organising Committee has three tiers of sponsorship deals for the games. The committee won’t reveal the sums of money involved but it’s understood that Heineken is a “tier three” sponsor, costing the Dutch firm £10m.
The package gives Heineken the rights to also sell two other brands in its portfolio, John Smith’s Smoothflow and Strongbow cider – but neither of the brands can be named. John Smith’s will be labelled “British Bitter” and Strongbow will be called “Cider”.
At Lord’s where Marston’s has the beer concession to sell Pedigree Bitter and is the official sponsor of the England cricket team, handpumps will be removed while the archery competition takes place during the Olympics. Portraits of cricketer Matthew Hoggard, Marston’s “beer ambassador”, will be covered up.
Visitors to the world-famous cricket ground, with its long tradition of ale drinking, will be offered Dutch lager and anonymous keg bitter and cider. But cask Pedigree will be available in the Lord’s Tavern, the bar and restaurant complex alongside the main entrance to the ground.
Workers win Freedom from McFries
It seems workers have won one small victory for freedom and good taste against the tat of sponsorship and monopoly.
Chip-hungry Olympic workers celebrate freedom from McDonald's monopolyThe great British chip claims partial victory over McDonald's. Staff working on opening and closing ceremonies allowed to eat chips served outside branches of fast food chain
The great London 2012 Olympic chip embargo has cracked. No longer will hungry workers at the games be denied pie and chips, chicken and chips or even just chips because of a monopoly enforced by McDonald's, a major sponsor.
On Wednesday, the London Organising Committee responded to plaintive cries of caterers who had grown tired of receiving "grief" from chip-hungry staff working on the opening and closing ceremonies and allowed chips to be served outside branches of the fast food chain McDonald's.
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.
On Wednesday catering staff in the media centre were taking no risks. There were hash browns and dauphinoise, but no chips. A server explained why: "Because McDonald's own the rights, so we're not allowed to".
They may not call them "French Fries" anymore ( for which I am sure many French connoiseurs of les frittes
are glad), but whatever McDonalds serve they are fries
, and not chips.
It may have been an immigrant from Holland to the East End who hit on the idea of selling fried potatoes with fish, but since then as everyone in Stratford knows, chips have become thoroughly British, even if the best ones I've tasted in England, apart from my Mum's and my own, were from Greek Cypriot or Italian-run fish restaurants.
I'll give McDonalds marks for chutzpah, and the Olympic organisers for obseqiousness in allowing them and the aforementioned multinational brewers to pass off such travesties.
Apologies to those of you already put off by the Bhopal and sweatshop aspects of Olympic sponsorship if you feel I've only dealt with lighter aspects.
Another blogger, and her almost an East End girl (well from Hackney) comments on the Olympics:
And another aspect of Group Four-Securicor (G4S)'s global empire:
(Go West-Bank young man, and Grow Rich from Someone Else's Country)
Labels: Food and Drink, London, Privatisation, sport