Posted by: olymponomics | May 20, 2012

The Olympic panopticon

The role of CCTV, and technologies of surveillance more broadly, in securing mega-events such as the Olympics have been subject to much discussion. Beijing’s $6 billion ‘Safeguard Sphere’, a vast closed circuit television surveillance system that remained in place after the event, consisted of 300,000 cameras interfaced with face recognition software. Increasingly, the security infrastructure and controls that are put in place for mega-events are leaving hard security legacies as well as contributing to soft changes in the sort of security restrictions, and suspensions of civil liberties, that are legitimated on the basis of the special nature of the mega-event environment. A distinctive and overriding security discourse is emerging ahead of London 2012, with highly visible ‘familiarisation exercises’ on the Thames ahead of the event and coverage of surface-to-air missiles on a number of sites in the London area. These sorts of activities have a practical purpose but also establish a prevailing impression of the immense scale and intensity of the security effort. Surveillance is part of this security discourse. For example, Westminster city council’s CCTV system has been promoted as an integral part of security measures for London 2012, although it will be focused on existing hot spots in central London rather than activities near to the main Olympic site in East London – where security threats might be greatest.

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