Issue 278, Friday 29 June 2012 - 9 Sha'ban 1433
Olympics 2012 fails Muslims
The Muslim News wishes that the London Olympics is a huge success. It should be a welcome boost with Britain back on the world map and more than 10 million people of all backgrounds and countries expecting to attend events. Just as during the Queen’s Jubilee, it is an opportunity for people to forget the economic gloom and have a good time.
London won the bid to stage the Olympics on the basis of an extraordinary promise of a lasting legacy but doubts have been raised if many of these aims will be realised. There have also been controversies, including the refusal to change the date during Ramadan affecting some 3,000 Muslim athletes and thousands more spectators and volunteers. Muslim spectators and volunteers will not be able to enjoy the festivities like other participants as they will not be able to drink nor eat during the long fast.
Fasting during Ramadan has a unique significance, with Muslims praying and sharing the pangs of hunger together during the blessed month but it has left a dilemma for Muslim athletes, most of whom will not be able to fast with Muslims throughout the globe. Many such athletes were upset with the dates of the games but did not want to discuss their views on record given the threat to a defining moment in their career.
The London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) could have taken up the issue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the host country. Such a request would have shown respect for more than 20 per cent of the world’s inhabitants and endorse the UK’s commitment to cultural diversity. It would also have shown that Olympics which represents the world’s five continents is truly representative of all on an equal basis and not become just another mega-commercial venture as some critics claim.
The date is not cast in stone as proved by the decision to delay the start in Beijing to the middle of August to avoid the hot weather. Previous Olympics, like in Australia and South Korea, were not held until mid-September, and in Mexico, they started in October.
Sir Seb is misleading when he says that Dr Mohammed Abdul Bari, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain who is also on the LOCOG Board, had involvement in the bid dates as this was done in 2005, a year before Dr Bari joined the LOCOG. And to suggest Muslim athletes and volunteers would be able to fast by being provided with unique food packs is a joke as catering facilities have to be provided if one is fasting or not.
Olympics are never held during Christmas or Easter vindicating those who argue that the international body has a Christian bias.
Due to the spectrum of terrorism being raised, Muslims have already being warned of facing wrongful arrest during Olympics as happened to five street cleaners during the Pope’s visit. This is despite the Government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation being adamant that any detentions must be based upon reasonable suspicion. “What I also said very clearly for the police, the arrest power under Terrorism Act can only be used based because you suspect that someone is a terrorist and it cannot be used to clean streets, it cannot be used simply for purposes of gathering intelligence,” David Anderson said.
A lot of consternation has also been caused by the stationing of missiles on civilian rooftops, which Anderson said he was also taking up with the Government. “It does seem rather a strong measure to take,” he said, questioning which power was used to make the controversial decision.
The timing of the games with Ramadan does present the added problem, especially near the Olympic Stadium in east London, where there will be also thousands of Muslims on the streets travelling to and from mosques. We can only hope that the independent review keeps his pledge to be especially vigilant that police do not go past their remit, saying he was “watching like a hawk.”
Muslims in Tower Hamlet already feel slighted by the decision to change the route of the marathon from east to west London, despite diversity being a leading factor in the success of London’s bid to stage the games. It also leaves the bitter feeling that LOCOG did not want to show the world the poverty of East London, but wanted to show the richer part of London.
Sir Seb gives many excuses to justify their decision. The claim of high risk disruption if the marathon took place in Tower Hamlets is a red herring as the disruption will take place anyway during the Olympics without the marathon as it is an Olympic Borough.
To placate the local community by taking away the marathon, LOCOG has named Brick Lane as the Curry Capital of London. Other businesses in the area have been left out. How come they are not being given recognition? And by naming it such what will LOCOG do to attract tourists and spectators to the area?
Sir Seb uses the Olympic Torch Relay which will go through East London to argue that the Olympic Borough is benefiting from the games. However, the reason why the torch relay is passing through East London is because after the LOCOG took away the marathon, it was the community that asked for the torch relay. In addition, the locals wanted the Olympic Torch Relay to end at Tower Hamlets with a spectacular closing ceremony but the suggestion was rejected.
In addition, most of the East Londoners cannot afford to buy tickets for the games. They would have had the chance to participate in the games to some extent if the marathon had passed through their borough.
Sir Seb claims that Tower Hamlets will gain from the games. This seems not to be the case. Most of the contractors for the games are not from Tower Hamlets, the Olympic Borough. A mere 65 local businesses have been given the contracts. Unfortunately, the games has become known for vested commercial interests and the main beneficiaries will be the sponsors and big businesses.
Also the 1,000 jobs that east Londoners will get that he is referring to, is meagre compared to 48,000 jobs available for the games
Saddest of all will also be the failure for pledges to meet the legacy pledges. Despite Sir Seb’s contention, it is difficult to see that the games will not just be about a few weeks of sport but leave a lasting social, economic and sporting legacy.
The Olympics is a truly worldwide movement that should be free from politics and commercial interests. It should be the gathering of people from all countries participating and attending in the original spirit of the games.