London, the Olympics and Getting Rid of the Poor

I read this article today in the Guardian and thought it was worth pointing out.  The article, “London is getting into the Olympic spirit – by kicking out the Gypsies” by George Monbiot argues that the Olympics, often thought of being a way to boost the economy for the poor, is in fact very hard on the poor in the city, many times leaving them without any housing at all.

The article is really worth the read.  here’s a quote:

The government’s favourite think tanks, Demos and the Institute for Public Policy Research, examined the claim that the Olympics produce a lasting economic boom. They found that “there is no guaranteed beneficial legacy from hosting an Olympic games … and there is little evidence that past games have delivered benefits to those people and places most in need”. Tessa Jowell must be aware of this as well – she wrote the forward to the report. A paper published by the London assembly last month found that “long-term unemployed and workless communities were largely unaffected [by better job prospects] by the staging of the games in each of the four previous host cities”.

Far more damning is a study released last week by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. In every city it examined, the Olympic games – accidentally or deliberately – have become a catalyst for mass evictions and impoverishment. Since the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, more than 2 million people have been driven from their homes to make way for the Olympics. The games have become a licence for land grabs.

The 1988 games are widely seen as a great success. But they were used by the military dictatorship (which had ceded power in 1987) as an opportunity to turn Seoul from a vernacular city owned by many people into a corporate city owned by the elite – 720,000 people were thrown out of their homes; people who tried to resist were beaten by thugs and imprisoned; tenants were evicted without notice and left to freeze (some survived by digging caves into a motorway embankment); street vendors were banned; homeless people, those with mental health problems, alcoholics and beggars were rounded up and put into a prison camp. The world saw nothing of this: just a glossy new city full of glossy new people.