The Games: The Art of Dissent
26/07/2012 by Danny Arter
We Love This Book's Danny Arter attended Pages of Hackney bookshop's talk about the dissent around the Olympics
One ought to tread carefully around the subject of the global sporting spectacle that will be hosted in the capital of England in just a few days’ time. I will henceforth call it ‘the event’, as combining the aforementioned city with the number of years since Christ’s birth in media coverage can, almost unbelievably, land you in hot water.
Anyone who has seen documentation released by organisers of ‘the event’ will be familiar with such conundra. Hats that are ‘too large’ are banned from ‘the event’. Any instances of ‘ambush marketing’—such as trainers manufactured by a rival of Adidas, an official partner of ‘the event’—will be dealt with accordingly. Perhaps the most well-publicised example is that of chips; one can’t buy chips (from a non-McDonalds vendor) without it accompanying fish.
Unsurprisingly, many Londoners are rather hostile towards ‘the event’; not merely because of the laughable restrictions that it will impose, but because of the longer-term legacy—a term banded around liberally during the city’s bid to host ‘the event’. Areas of east London that were targeted for ‘regeneration’ have been transformed into lasting sporting ‘legacies’—most impressively with a series of multi-storey car parks and the world’s largest branch of McDonalds.
One pocket of dissenting voices has recorded their experiences. The Art of Dissent is the fruits of their labour, a lavish book replete with poems, satirical sketches and photo-aided essays. Clapton-based bookshop Pages of Hackney hosted an evening with talks from some of the book’s collaborators on Thursday 19 July; Jude Rosen, Andrew Bailes, Alberto Duman and Alistair Siddons joined writer and researcher Isaac Marrero to express their disaffection.
The speakers’ approaches varied: Siddons’ humorous faux-‘legislation’ imposed a ban upon numbers from which one can derive the figure 2012; Rosen and Bailes read poems laced with disappointment and anger over the ‘regeneration’; and Duman delivered perhaps the most revelatory blow concerning the Adidas-sponsored ‘Adizones’ (pictured).
These zones are part of the enduring legacy of ‘the event’, whose logo makes up the floorplan of each ‘Adizone’ – a gym that comes with free wi-fi. By virtue of being a space for exercise, it qualifies as a ‘sporting legacy’ of ‘the event’, and thus is immune from quibbles as minor as planning permission.
Remarkably, funding for the zones is drawn from public/private partnerships—so in effect, taxpayers’ money is being used to fund 50% of the Adizones’ running costs. In addition to this, the multinational sports brand has to be consulted should the local council wish to make changes to the Adizones within the next 20 years. Duman claims the cost to the local council is £5,000 per annum; multiplied by 20, he claims, the outcome is more than a six-figure fiscal sum: it is a form of permanent branding offered up as a sporting legacy.
Perhaps the only thing more disheartening than the all-encompassing, omnipresent multinational branding of ‘the event’ is how little the general public have seemed to notice – or care.