Ditching The Olympics

Ditching The Olympics

A Black Flag article on resistance to the Olympic Games in Berlin and the Netherlands in the 1980s and 1990s.

London is bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The official website announces proudly that "not only have the Government given strong backing to the bid, but the project has received cross party support in Parliament and from the business community". The residents of London's East End, where the Games are proposed to take place, on the other hand, haven't been asked. Nor are they likely to be.

Fluid - the company being paid a small fortune to consult the public on the 2012 Olympic bid recently confirmed that it would not be speaking to the public until its ‘masterplan' had been put in place! The company had only three months in which to carry out the consultation and submit its masterplan to the government, who must, in turn place full plans before the IOC by 15th January 2004. One month into their contract, no consultation had been carried out. In October 2003, Fluid still had no plans to hold any public meetings or to approach key members of local communities. Instead, plans have been discussed with invited guests behind closed doors.

The public will be presented, towards the end of the process in November, with a fait accompli. Public meetings, if Fluid can be bothered to hold them, at this stage will serve only to "ask us if we want it green or white, but not if we want it at all" (Chairwoman Hackney Marshes Users Group, Hackney Gazette 2/10/03). The bid is being sold to East Londoners as a means of regenerating a severely depressed and under-resourced area. But who is going to pay? Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone have agreed a £2.4billion funding package for the Games, with the actual bid costing around £17 million. The government have apparently put together "innovative funding schemes, including an Olympic Lottery and increases in council tax". Wow that really is innovative. And to really kick the boot in, Tessa Lowell says "I believe the cost should be borne at least in part by those who would most benefit". Which presumably is us...

The official website declares that "security is a priority. London is one of the world's safest major cities. So much so that the police routinely patrol without guns." Tell that to residents of 'shotgun mile' in Clapton, Hackney, where shootings happen on a depressingly regular basis. The website then boasts "the Metropolitan Police has unrivalled experience in managing large-scale events safely and unobtrusively, covering everything from traffic control to counter-terrorisms," How reassuring. If this is the picture that Ken and his friends want to paint for the IOC, then we could have a lot of fun disillusioning them. The articles to follow show how it can be done...

Dutch Courage?

During the campaign against the Amsterdam bid, activists found one of the most effective tactics was to counter each glossy pamphlet, each PR event, each bribe to the IOC with their own:

"Until October 17th, 1986, the day of the lOC's deciding vote, a minimal group of activists would succeed for at least two years in achieving the maximal media effect. The fact that ... the administrators had been using the candidacy for image improvement, which by definition belongs in the media sphere, made it possible to slay them with mere media presence. If the city had put all its money on, for example, the encouragement of sports in Holland, such ...(a) strategy would have been impossible... Unscrupulously they copied all the methods and techniques of the enemy foundation: the organiser's personal gift to the IOCers was followed by a bag of marijuana, received in the mail, with a letter signed Mayor Ed van Thijn: "After the South African diamonds, we're sending you something with which you can clear your mind. The Dutch Olympics Committee would like to acquaint you with one of the products of Amsterdam. We hope to exert a positive influence on your decision in this matter. Our national product can be obtained in five hundred legal sales outlets. Please don't be bothered by increasing opposition in Amsterdam"."

From 'Cracking the Movement' - Squatting beyond the media, Adilkno pps 133-135

NOLYMPICS IN BERLIN

This article, "How did the Anti Olympia Committee stop the Berlin Olympics", has been translated from the Granwacke Collective's "Autonomists in the Movement: from the 1st 23 years".

When US President Reagan visited Berlin In June 1987, he floated the Idea for an Olympic games in East and West Berlin. Stupid, we thought, just like his demand -"Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall!”... After the fall of the wall we were forced to take this idea seriously, when the Berlin Senate applied to host the games in 2000. The International Olympic Committee's decision was due in 1993.

Our starting point was different to other "Stop It" campaigns. We didn't want to focus on the actual event with actions and a huge demo on the first day - instead we wanted to stop the Games coming to Berlin at all. Because once the decision to give the games to Berlin was made, a whole lot of things would happen which we didn't want.

Restructuring (of the city) was always only a part of the issue for us, but it was the main push factor for the campaign. The examples of other host cities spoke volumes. The rents go up, tenants are forced cut and yuppification occurs. It's a great party for the City bosses and top bureaucrats - fuel for their "city policies". But there were other important reasons why we were opposed to the Olympics as a whole - which differentiated us from other groups and parties who often just argued that Berlin was "the wrong city at the wrong time".

The elitist history and practice of the Olympics was a first fundamental point of criticism, In the ancient Olympics only male nobles or (later) rich "citizens" were allowed to take part either as participants or observers. Only victory counted - nothing else. The revival of the Games in the late 19th century was by racist imperialists like Pierre Coubertin and excluded once again the great majority of the population. Amateurism meant that only those sportspeople who could afford to without payment could take part.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a reactionary, antisemitic Brotherhood. As Fidel Castro put it "A mafia of white counts, princes and millionaires". Our opinion, which we put on a billboard in Mitte (central Berlin) was that "the IOC is a pigsty of corrupt, dope dealing mafia with a fascist leadership".

The hosting of the 1936 Games by the Nazis was another ground for our complete opposition. In every host city there has been, with varying levels of seventy, some sort of "clean up operation". Under the Nazis, Roma were sent to a concentration camp at Marzhan on the edge of the city. In Mexico City, shortly before the start of the 1968 Games, 300 people were murdered by security forces at an extra parliamentary opposition demo. In Los Angeles for the 1984 Games, homeless people were driven out from the city.

Elite, competitive sport is itself a copy of capitalism's system of competition - and is designed to propagate the dog eat dog ideology of individualism. The heightened state of security that accompanies any Olympic event requires not only thousands of coppers to keep people in line, but also an enforced mass consensus. A radical oppositional movement is, in this context, potentially even more irritating (for the state) and requires from them tough preventative action. The wider global political situation was for us, only the final dot on the in arguments against the spectacle of the Olympics in Berlin.

We started early, and by the beginning of '91 we were organising to build an "up for it" group. Our opponents weren't too far ahead then and the media were also slow to take up the issue. We needed stamina but had yet to recognise that the autonomist scene would only mobilise itself for the highlights and not for a sustained campaign that could last for two and a half years,

Nonetheless at the start it was an attempt at another "classic" Autonorne campaign. We only realised that we could sustain this campaign in the absence of a 'movement' in the relative lull of 1992. Before that we were convinced that this theme of the Olympics with all its aspects and sub themes needed to be taken up by a wide range of other groups, who would incorporate anti Olympic politics into their existing theory/practise.

So Antifascist groups would work around a critique of "Greater Germany" and the Olympics; Neighbourhood campaigns would take up the Olympics and urban restructuring, anti-sexist mens’ groups would discuss competitive sport and the competitive system and the Olympics etc. Our hopes and plans were that there would be many more similar link-ups without the need for any specific anti-Olympic group. In short, we wanted to gather together the existing (autonome) forces around the issue in order to strategically intervene and topple a central project of the Berlin Senate Government.

Opinion in the city was divided from the start. In none of the opinion polls was there ever a clear majority for the Olympic bid and scepticism in the population and the negative effect of 'Olympic mania' increased. We always thought we had a good chance of winning because we were seeking to influence a non-state decision making body (the IOC) in deciding between various host cities. A decision against Berlin would involve no loss of face for the IOC, nor would it be 'backing down' because of 'pressure from below', In this aspect it was very different to other campaigns we'd been involved in which directly threatened the state - because the state was always extremely reluctant to back down from any position - fearing this would mean the beginning of the end.

We began talks in the early summer of `91 with some people from the AL (the Greens in Berlin) and PDS (ex East German Communist Party) and so knew that there were people who would take part in certain types of mobilisation. Over the summer we prepared the ground for the first big action - the visit of the IOC executive in September '91 - through posters, meetings and discussions in Interim (the Berlin Autonomist magazine). The demo was two and a half thousand people strong and was quite feisty. After the demo people were still hanging around the Alexanderplatz (the main square in East Berlin) and a number of windows were put in and the French President Mitterand's (who happened to be visiting) limo was given a free panel beating.

After this came a long silence. There were many things which people had to take care of. The fascists were on the move, most horrifically in the Hoyerswerda and Rostock pogroms against refugees. All the same, there were some nice Volxsport1 actions e.g. In January '92 the "Lutz Gruttke" commando (named after the first Olympic hid chief who was sacked because of incompetence) kidnapped a memorial plaque for the Nazi sports administrator Carli Dieu from the 1936 Olympic Stadium Memorial. Among the ransom demands were the withdrawal of the bid for the 2000 and all future Olympic Games. The TV news from RTL humourlessly hyped this as "Anti Olympic activists blackmail the senate".

In February, we tried to make a routine Senate presentation more interesting through a mobilisation of activists. But only 80 people came. A couple of us got into the Hall, stopped the Minister for Construction's speech and managed to throw some leaflets giving our opinion on the issue.. until some undercover cops firmly invited us to leave the hall. We were frustrated by this flop and began to think over what we were doing and to broaden our ideas on what could be done in the future.

By now we had realised that “bad press was good news". The more the terribleness of the anti-Olympic activists was hyped up, the more the bigwigs of the IOC would get the idea that Berlin was an unreliable candidate in terms of security and that there was a halfway active resistance. We added to our plans the tactic of image damage. Using the model of the Amsterdam anti-Olympic campaign who'd sunk their bid for the 1992 Games in 1986 we operated as a small but beautiful "communications guerrilla".

This was not restricted to our small group, a video made by the then Green politician Judith Demba, and other activities fed into this new way of working. The video wasn't particularly spectacular, but the final scene was used by many TV programmes - a balancing activist juggles a stone and then puts a finger up at an imaginary IOC member..."We wait for you".

Image damage meant that every report about resistance and problems for the bid was in our terms good news. So for example in Amsterdam, tourist boats were attacked as a media stunt - not because they had much against tourists, but rather because it created headlines which damaged the bid. Opportunities for creativity were boundless - so for example, a fake autonomist “strategy paper" was "leaked" to the national press and city parliament. The paper itself was a boring set of rehashed old ideas, but the effect nonetheless, was immense. CM) representatives foamed at the mouth ("...Fire-bombings! Lady and Gentlemen representatives..."), the press fumed, autonomes smirked and the IOC was bewildered.

Image damage was a deciding factor -the Senate was powerless to stop it. When Diepagen (the leader of the Berlin Senate) tried to play down the actions, the international press asked if his casual attitude was because street battles and other volxsport actions were normal here. And when the press hyped it up as usual, this damaged the bid too.

From the start of 1993 we heightened targeted pressure on the IOC and its members. At the end of January we were in Lausanne (the Swiss LOC Headquarters) at the official presentation of the bid. The IOC confused the official delegation with two anti-Olympic politicians. At night a bit of colour was added to the IOC Headquarters - to tremendous effect - Marc Hinder from the IOC said "We won't vote for cities what besmirch our building...".

We offered each IOC member a bribe of $1 - only 7 sent them back so the rest were clearly buyable. A second trip to Lausanne in June ended up with IOC boss Samaranch getting paint bombed... and visits to the local nick for many. A glossy brochure for all of the IOC members detailing the advantages of riot capital Kreuzberg (a suburb of Berlin) was sent shortly before the vote in September - to some effect.

In April and September 1993 there were mass demos of fifteen to twenty thousand people in Berlin - as well as a growing number of militant actions against sponsors and others - the spice in a successful campaign soup. True to the "Strategy Paper", there were three levels of activity. The official coalition (Berlin Anti Olympic Committee - BAK), the autonomist AOK and the rapidly increasing number of night-time volxsport activists. The only annoying people were those from the PDS and the Greens who only participated in preparing for the mass demos and managed even to annoy their own members.

Otherwise the division of work was accepted - we provided the demo infra-structure and had a free hand in terms of action - whilst the parties would talk to the media. This worked so well that at the last press conference the autonomist representative could say, without contradiction from the PDS, Greens and SPD youth – "Arson attacks (without danger to people) are an integral part of the anti-Olympic campaign".

At the vote on 23rd September 1993, Berlin got just 9 votes and got kicked out just after Istanbul. This was broadcast live on the Oberbaum bridge (by Kreuzberg and Griedrichsshain) where over one thousand people celebrated.

  • 1. Literally "people’s sports” – but with undertones of (unarmed) guerrilla actions.

Posted By

Fozzie
Jul 6 2021 11:17

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  • We didn't want to focus on the actual event with actions and a huge demo on the first day - Instead we wanted to stop the Games coming to Berlin at all. Because once the decision to give the games to Berlin was made, a whole lot of things would happen which we didn't want.

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Fozzie
Jul 6 2021 17:39

Apologies for flooding “recent posts “ with Black Flag bits again today. I enjoyed this one and think “ruining” a city’s international image for the IOC is a great tactic.