The Olympics are now well and truly under way. Last night saw the opening ceremony watched by over 28 million here in Britain and over 1 billion around the world and beyond.
They saw a ceremony that included everyone from Mr Bean to Voldemort to the Arctic Monkeys and David Beckham. James Bond himself provided security for the Queen by parachuting into the Stadium. Overall I feel that the opening ceremony was a cross between spot Trevor Nelson's mate and a weird hellish version of The Lord of the Rings set. Five ring to rule them all and in the Olympic spirit bind them.
I like to think that the child catchers chasing the children around was symbolism of what this coalition Government of ours is planing to do the future of our country.
The Queen herself was there, looking as bored as many of her subjects, and ol' Prince Charley boy was joking away.
What was a very nice touch however was getting a group of 7 young athletes to light the cauldron. It was nice to see the ceremony looking forward to the future as I feared something of a “get the celebrity to do it” situation. The cauldron was very pretty too.
Not sure having all those sheep and cows there was a good idea. Let's just say some nations teams may have stepped into something they really wish they hadn't...
But while all this was going less than a mile away Police were allegedly kettling and pepper spraying protesters.
Did you see that story in the news? Chances are you didn't.
The last Friday in every month a group of people called Critical Mass (find them on wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass) get together for a big bike ride. However last night they were told in London don't go North of the river and avoid the new (and frankly daft) Olympic lanes.
They didn't follow that warning as they believed, and I think rightly so, that we live in a free nation where citizens are allowed to ride their bikes where they like.
However this being a protest rather than a mass group bike ride it changed things somewhat and some very ugly scenes ensued.
The protesters accused the Police of using very controversial “kettling” tactics, where they force the protesters into an enclosed space, surrounded by a very large number of police from the British Transport Police.
Reports then vary with numbers ranging from 50 to 150 protesters detained and having their bikes seized and placed on what the Police called “special buses” but from pictures appear to be normal buses with bikes thrown willynilly on them. The protesters detained were also bused away.
A few questions here would be where were the protesters bused too? Were they given their bikes back?
This is all shocking in and of itself but a video surfaced on youtube last night (check below) showing what is quite clearly an old disabled protester on a special trike suffering what appears to be pepper spray and a frankly shocking level of force used against him.
Those present claim that a Police medic was attempting to intervene but she was knocked back (or even hit back) by the officer in the video before he preceded to pepper spray the gentlemen in question and then apply a headlock using his truncheon.
Now that brings up even more questions. Do the Transport Police even have jurisdiction away from the Railways? A cursory look would say no unless it special situation. I'm guessing from the Olympics starting last night and the whole G4S debacle (see Episode 3 of the Spacecast) that they were given normal Met officer status to cope with the Olympic shortfall.
It also begs the question are these officers as trained to use restraint and force as their Met counterparts? Looking at this video I'm tempted to say not. Their standard “beat” as it were is very different to that of a usual Met officer, focusing solely on the rail and tube network, so they'd require a different skill set.
It's also worth noting that some protesters claim that they were originally moved to allow David Beckham to get to his speedboat in time to drive the flame to the opening ceremony. We've no way of checking this but it's an interesting anecdote to the tail.
With all these questions and so few answers I'm going to urge all of you to look beyond the headlines in this Olympics. Things like this are happening just behind the scenes and they need reporting as much as who got what medal. Perhaps more so given the heavy handed actions in the video.
I'll leave you with a video report on the issue from the RT.com website, a not-for-profit news agency, with some refreshingly liberal views.