London 2012 – The Immoral Games? (Part Two)

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In part one of the immoral games, we discussed hypocritical sponsors (McDonalds & Co.) and shady ones; part two starts exactly where it left off, with a another look at the checkered history of Dow Chemical, an Olympic-sized tax break for sponsors and a non-existent legacy?

Agent Orange

In a room of the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam there is a exhibit which shows a series of photographs depicting the effects of Agent Orange both during and after the Vietnam War. It is graphic to say the least; and one of the worst sights I have seen. (Look up Agent Orange on google; you’ll understand what I mean)

Agent Orange is a defoliant that was used heavily during the Vietnam War – part of the herbicidal warfare programme, designed to deny cover to the “enemy”. Over eighty billion litres were poured over Vietnam, as well as parts of Laos and Cambodia, equalling around six pounds per head of population.

US Helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam

The Dioxin is extremely toxic and poisonous to all forms of life. It can cause stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer as well as mental disabilities. The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates more than one million people have disabilities or other health problems due to the chemical

Far worse, however, is the legacy it has left. The images in the museum show children with severe deformities; missing eyes and limbs, distorted growth such as extra fingers and toes and bulbous odd shaped heads. These children were born after the Vietnam War, even up to this very day, with estimates of over 4.8million children at risk.

So whats the link to London 2012? Agent Orange was produced by a few companies, but mainly by one: Dow Chemical, the London 2012 sponsor. Dow were uniquely aware of the harmfulness of the product, but failed to inform the US government to avoid regulation

Here too, the company has failed to compensate the victims nor have they cleaned-up the contaminated areas of Vietnam, leaving thousands still at risk. Despite this, David Cameron referred to Dow as a “very reputable company”.

Other sponsors of the games will less than reputable histories are the Oil giant BP and the mining company Rio Tinto, especially in regards to the environment, as well as human rights abuses, challenging the claim of London2012 as the most environmentally friendly games ever.

ATOS

The Paralympics is there to show the best out of disabilities, to help confront prejudice towards disabled persons as well as showcasing the best disabled athletic talent there is. Yet, in what seemed like a cruel joke, one of the biggest sponsors of this year Paralympic games was a corporation called Atos; the company currently taking thousands of disabled people off the welfare system.

The government-supported system created by Atos, where those on benefits are ranked on points through a work capability assessment, has attracted widespread condemnation with many extremely ill people deemed “fit for work”. The charity Mind has described it as both “unfit” and as having a “detrimental impact” on those assessed.

This is no exaggeration either; those that are nowhere near being able to work are being forced into jobs purely as there is no other option without state support. Many are threatening their very existence by forcing themselves, with several driven to suicide and death. Figures show that as many as 32 people a week, since April, have been dying after failing the assessment.

The government aims to get over half a million people of the disability living allowance, despite the fact that the fraud level on claiming such benefits is below 1%.

A company that sponsored an event showcasing the best disable athletic talent out there simultaneously threatened – and continues to threaten – the every day livelihood of persons with mental health problems, illness and disability.

Temporary Tax Haven

When Jimmy Carr avoided tax, it was “morally wrong”. So too was paying trades people of builders, cleaners and plumbers “cash in hand”. The massive tax bills of corporations such as Vodafone and Top Shop – as well as the estimated £13 trillion hoarded by 100,000 people in tax havens – were purely unmentioned.

London 2012 followed a similar route when it was announced that the Olympic partners and sponsors would be given a tax break during the games. With profits of more than 2.7 billion predicted; this would be an avoidance of 600million in tax.

However, after public pressure mounted – with a online petition on 38 degrees – most of the companies including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, EDF and Visa backed down, claiming they would pay the corporations rates of tax on their Olympic revenue.

A success? Well, the tax haven was still offered whilst people in the country suffer widespread economic austerity and welfare cuts. The companies also have to come through with the promises as well; eager eyes will be watching next April when they publish their financial reports.

Legacy?

Legacy, legacy, legacy. That’s all we’ve heard in the post-olympic blues of London 2012. A legacy for who though? Newham, the borough that the Olympic Park, is situated in is one of the poorest in Britain with levels of obesity, lack of sporting participation and deprivation. The level of diabetes in the area has more than doubled in the last ten years, due to a over-proliferation of fast food restaurants. The Olympics may have regenerated a small area of the borough, but it needs more to flourish – and is just one small example of a national problem.

The Government has recently slashed schools’ sporting budgets by 69% with the minimal 2 hours a week of PE per child recently dropped

On a more national scale, the sporting legacy of London 2012 seems under threat; the government have recently slashed sporting budgets by 69% with P.E. being extremely insignificant on the school curriculum with the minimal 2 hours a week target per child dropped. Documents have also shown that the coalition government have sold more than 20 school playing fields whilst in power, whilst local councils have cut their sports facility funding; some even cutting all of it. Attacks on the lack of competitiveness in state schools is also far from the truth.

Without investment and fields to play on, legacy is just a word.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games were an unqualified rip-roaring success; the country’s cynical expectation of national embarrassment, failed athletes and rain-filled stadiums turn out out to be a far cry from what we got. Instead, a inspiring Opening Ceremony kicked things off, Team GB did the business – creating a host of new idols and heroes for the sporting young (and old) – and, most surprisingly, the weather held out. Even the French and Germans gave us a positive review. 

On the surface, it was arguably the greatest ever Olympic Games. Yet, alas, behind the scene; commercial greed, shady sponsors, histories of human rights abuses and a threatened legacy leave the games tarnished.

This article is an extended version of the one that appeared in Issue One of the Wessex Scene Magazine.


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