The Berserks of London and the London Olympics
London Mayor Boris Johnson has some cleaning up to do when he returns from holiday. Photo: Road in London district Croyden on August 9 2011 by George Rex
Known as “the Berserker” at the rugby fields of Eton, London Mayor Boris Johnson is now up for his biggest challenge. The former berserker has to cope with the berserks of the streets of London.
The London Mayor reluctantly cancelled his holiday to deal with the street violence that has rioted London in the beginning of August. After his home coming from his holiday in Italy, Boris Johnson has to cope with challenges at different levels: he must quickly ensure that the violence ceases, he must take action to prevent these kinds of riots in the future and he must ensure that these riots will not affect the London Olympics.
Concerning the London Olympics Boris Johnson has two main challenges: a reputation problem (will people stay away from the London Olympics in fear of riots next summer?) and an organisational problem (how to ensure that this does not happen in London next July?).
But also the reputation of the Mayor himself is at stake. At first he did not take the violence seriously. From under his parasol in Italy, he posted the following tweet: "Grateful to the community for all their help. Violence and destruction will achieve nothing" (early August 8). This post did not carry many signs of wanting to put down the Prosecco glass.
However, the hangover came not long after. The tweet just a few hours later says: "Heading to the airport. Back in London tomorrow lunchtime. This mindless violence must cease" (not so early August 8). Now 16,000 police officers and the rest of London's population are waiting for the blond to clean up. The Berserk is back
All leads to the Olympic Games
The Olympic ghost has dominated all politics in London for the past seven years. Money, police resources, urban planning, housing projects, poverty policies, education, etc. are all linked to the Olympics. And now it is getting serious.
In the second week of August the rehearsal for the London 2012 Olympics starts. On August 10, 200 Olympic delegates are in place to watch beach volleyball. On Saturday 13 August cycling trials will take place. This is at least how the days are planned and if events are not being postponed like the football friendly between England and the Netherlands and several other matches.
Terror and terrorism
The security planning for the Olympics hs to take many considerations into account. During the Prince’s wedding in April, protection of dignitaries and dealing with peaceful public masses were tested. During the wedding about 5,000 police officers were in the streets, helicopters monitored the central parts of London and the terror alert was high. Both police resources and military components were involved.
During the street riots in August, 16,000 police officers are put in to protect a more uncontrollable threat: young people running crazy. This is terror, but not terrorism. How well is London prepared for this?
Blame it onBlackBerry?
The worst riots have taken place in the borough of Hackney - one of five designated Olympic boroughs, and only a few miles from the Olympic Park. A part of the legacy of the Olympics will be urban renewal, among other things by making participating villages and other Olympic lodging public housing after the Games.
Led by Boris Johnson, the government of London has issued a list of "100 great things about the Games." Point number 34 was posted on Boris Johnson's twitter account on 1 August. It says: "2,800 new homes being built on the # OlympicPark with room for 8,000 more. No.34 of 100 great things about the #Games." Didn’t the mob get this?
Some blame the seemingly unmanageable situation on the fact that the mob communicates through Blackberry Messenger instead of Twitter. Maybe that’s why they didn’t get the happy message from Boris Johnson?
IOC has said that they do not worry about London’s Olympic security. Now it is up to Boris Johnson to convince the citizens, the IOC and the visitors that there is nothing to fear next year. And he must make sure that the Olympics will go by successfully. In the meantime there might be a new financial crisis waiting...
This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sporten uutholdelige letthet' on Tuesday 9 August 2011. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on www.sportenuutholdeligeletthet.blogspot.com.