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Too dangerous for the Games?

Published May 21, 2012 09:16am


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My love affair with cricket began in Sri Lanka, which was my home over a decade ago. In 2002, the island welcomed the world’s greatest talents in the game for the mini world cup, better known as the now defunct ICC Champions Trophy. We enjoyed the company of some the biggest names of the game over cold beers on the Mount Lavinia beach and were awe-inspired by their performances on the field. Spending time with Jonty, Shoaib, Allan, Brian and Makhaya was a great way to finally understand the game. When England toured Sri Lanka, the Barmy Army marvelled at Murali’s action and made up songs about Chaminda Vaas (it was hard to find lyrics that rhymed with Sanath Jayasuriya). We were delighted that the tropical island we lived on, although blighted by a bloody civil war, was still able to entertain the sport.

It was heart-breaking then, when the Sri Lankan cricket team came under an attack, whilst on tour in another country close to my heart. The Lahore attack in 2009, which killed eight Pakistanis and injured six of the Sri Lankan players, spelt the end for international tournaments in Pakistan – a nation deemed too dangerous for the game.

This, however, is not about cricket or, for that matter, Pakistan.

With the arrival of the Olympic Torch, I feel compelled ask whether Britain is safe enough to host the Games. Security is supposed to make you feel, well, secure. Yet, in the past few weeks I have felt increasingly insecure in my home, which is approximately 35 miles from the Olympic Park – the home of the Games.

Last week, we learned that spectators will be banned from bringing water bottles into Olympic Park – for the fear that they may contain liquid bombs. Londoners have witnessed the deployment of RAF Typhoon aircraft (fighter jets), and learnt that there are six air defence missile systems poised for action. Britain’s largest warship (HMS Ocean) is now parked on the Thames as part of the Olympic security preparations. Residents of east London recently told BBC Radio that their neighbourhood seemed like a ‘military zone.’ Apartments have been taken over by the Ministry of Defence, who are using them as potential launch pads for air weaponry. The BBC have kindly provided an enlightening collection of photographs.

Is the British Government responding to a tip off? Or, has it unearthed the vast number of end-of-the-world conspiracy theories on YouTube? Whatever the case, I feel saddened to be living in a country (and time), where this level of military protection is required for a sporting event.

Some cynics say the water-bottle ban is to ensure that people buy branded water once inside the stadium. The London Olympics have signed exclusive sponsorship deals with a number of companies, meaning that spectators are urged to only drink a certain brand of cola or beer and eat at a particular fast food outlet. There has been further criticism for the selling of sponsorship to oil giants  and a multi-national consumer goods company. At a London underground station this week, I was greeted with an advert for the Games. It wasn’t promoting the incredible human endeavours that would be showcased – it merely asked me to buy stuff: "Gear Up For The Games", it said - “Be Part of It with Official Merchandise.” That’s the spirit.

Apparently the arrival of the torch in our lands has given a boost to the ‘British spirit.’ Let’s hope it raises the sporting spirit – for that has been buried under a sea of commercialisation and a show of military might. I am hoping for a summer similar to those I experienced in Sri Lanka - where we could relax in the sunshine, drink “British ale” and learn about new, exciting sports. While I am looking forward to being primarily awestruck by the ability of our fellow humans, so far it all feels too dangerous. I can’t help wishing myself in an altogether safer place like, say, the Galle Stadium in Sri Lanka.

Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and diplomacy. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011. More about Caroline’s work and her contact details can be found here and on facebook.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and international relations. Her main research interests are in the perception of places and people as presented in the media. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (16) Closed

Khan May 21, 2012 10:20am
Look at the bright side Carol.. At least we have a beautiful Stratford now after all the exemplary development in the area with wider roads (6 lanes in some places) and excellent transport links, new sporting venues and above all cleaner look. Although a bit disappointed for not getting any Olympics tickets but at least we will have lovely Notting hill carnival soon afterwards.
Ravi May 21, 2012 10:27am
Ya you must be in sri lanka watching cricket when terrorist trained in "Very Close To Your Heart" country pakistan ravaged Britain.
Ragu May 21, 2012 10:48am
As long as some countries have a foreign policy of nurturing terror outfits, the civilized world will have to protect itself. What is so unnatural or unusual about it? What is even more disturning is that the same impoverished immigrants who came to UK seeking its freedom have turned against it and are keen on killing one and all. The failure of multi-culturalism has created more threats against any international event, such as the Olympics.
Wajahat May 21, 2012 11:43am
Agha Ata May 21, 2012 12:38pm
Safer place like, say, the Galle Stadium in Sri Lanka and London today, what an interesting comparison! My dear Jain, present SiriLanka is the past of the present London, and the present London maybe the future of SiriLanka. What a historical tragedy!
NASAH (USA) May 21, 2012 02:04pm
Mr. Cameron is afraid of Euro invasion hence the aircraft carrier.
Hariharan.S May 21, 2012 04:07pm
Well,honestly,no one wants the Munich tragedy to repeat itself..... With the current tensions in the world.... No wonder,security is tightened up It may be a bit of inconvenience to some...But its always good to be safe than sorry
Guest May 21, 2012 06:59pm
Where are the so called International Media , who were calling to Cancel the Bahrain F1 Race just because there were some missguided youths throwing sotnes iron rods,bottle bombs Mainly on Police Force and then blocking roads to cause huge inconvenience to the normal people . What is the level of public Inconvenience This British security cordon ? Jan tells us a lot .........
Imran May 21, 2012 09:45pm
ali May 22, 2012 03:50am
I guess it is better to be safe than sorry. And some are still not even sorry over the Srilankan incident. If we had taken such security measures we would not have had that incident.
Mubeen Alum May 22, 2012 06:12am
This is really embarrassing for Pakistan.
Muhammad May 22, 2012 08:24am
please keep your hate to yourself Mr.Ravi.
FM1979 May 22, 2012 01:35pm
you obviously have no idea what this writer or you yourself are talking about !!
John Ernest May 27, 2012 06:01pm
London is a very dangerous city and not only is it because of the people raging over economic reforms or what-so-ever. People will be more likely to be violent there rather than on other cities. It is like they are having eye-to-eye communications when they see somebody become vicious and violent they get the cue and everybody starts being violent just because of a game. It will be dangerous to host a world event there.
Appelant Jun 15, 2012 07:54pm
no comments.
Nut Case Jun 20, 2012 07:47am
Lets say if all the high security is removed will it make you feel any safer ? Actually the security personals are doing a thankless job , People who can not appricate do not deserve it. Why don't you migrate to Tirah Valley in FATA of Pakistan which is abondoned by armed forces of the country just 2 weeks back perfect idealic location with the security apperatus as you prefer.