London 2012 will see the UK's biggest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war and the effects will linger long after the athletes have left
As a metaphor for the London Olympics, it could hardly be more stark. The much-derided "Wenlock" Olympic mascot is now available in London Olympic stores dressed as a Metropolitan police officer.
For £10.25 you, too, can own the ultimate symbol of the Games: a member of by far the biggest and most expensive security operation in recent British history packaged as tourist commodity.
Eerily, his single panoptic-style eye, peering out from beneath the police helmet, is reminiscent of the all-seeing eye of God so commonly depicted at the top of Enlightenment paintings.
In these, God's eye maintained a custodial and omniscient surveillance on His unruly subjects far below on terra firma.
The imminent Olympics will take place in a city still recovering from riots that the Guardian-LSE Reading the Riots project showed were partly fuelled by resentment at their lavish cost.
Last week, the UK spending watchdog warned that the overall costs of the Games were set to be at least £11bn – £2 bn over even recently inflated budgets. When major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, speeded up for the Games, are factored in, the figure may be as high as £24bn, according to Sky News.
The estimated cost put forward only seven years ago when the Games were won was £2.37 bn.
With the required numbers of security staff more than doubling in the last year, estimates of the Games' immediate security costs have doubled from £282m to £553m. Even these figures are likely to end up as dramatic underestimates: the final security budget of the 2004 Athens Olympics were around £1bn.
All this in a city convulsed by massive welfare, housing benefit and legal aid cuts, spiralling unemployment and rising social protests.
It is darkly ironic, indeed, that large swaths of London and the UK are being thrown into ever deeper insecurity while being asked to pay for a massive security operation, of unprecedented scale, largely to protect wealthy and powerful people and corporations.
Critics of the Olympics have not been slow to point out the dark ironies surrounding the police Wenlock figure. "Water cannon and steel cordon sold separately," mocks Dan Hancox on the influential Games Monitor website. "Baton rounds may be unsuitable for small children."...read more