Several hundred protesters critical of the economic impact and corporate flavour of the Olympics marched near the London’s Olympic Park, determined to send a message that Britain was not united in backing the Games.
Protesters gathered in a party atmosphere on Saturday and expressed their opposition to everything from corporate sponsorship of the Olympics to anger about missiles positioned on the roofs of nearby apartment blocks for the Games.
The protest brought together around 40 activist groups under the banner of the “Counter Olympics Network”, groups that had hitherto struggled to be heard above the din of the London 2012 media machine.
Some demonstrators were from the “Occupy London” anti-capitalist movement, or from far-left parties, united by their opposition to the multi-million-dollar sponsorship of the Games by multinationals like McDonald’s and Dow Chemical.
They joined forces with local residents opposed to the placing of anti-aircraft missiles near the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to prevent any possible airborne terror attack.
The highly controversial move by the army was part of Olympic security measures; the roofs overlook the Olympic Stadium.
A heavy police presence kept watch over the protest. A dozen motorcycle officers and two police vans were stationed at the end of the road to ensure the protesters did not get any closer to the sporting action.
John McDonnell, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, explained why they had come to demonstrate.
“We enjoy the sport, what we don’t like is this corporate takeover that’s gone on,” he said.
Protest organiser Julian Cheyne attacked what he sees as the failure of the Games to uphold its high ideals.
“Our intention is to draw attention to the failures to keep promises, because the Olympics makes all sorts of claims that are basically untrue,” he said.
Cheyne denied that the protest was spoiling Britain’s Olympic party, saying a very large body of opinion in the UK was against the Games.
The protest drew a variety of groups ranging from campaigners against the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, to anti-war campaigners who think former British premier Tony Blair should face a war crimes trial because of Britain’s role in Iraq.