So, the main Olympic games are over and an amazing spectacle it was too. It was good to see people celebrated for their hard work, incredible endurance and ability.
The efforts made to give a warm welcome to visitors were enormous, to the point where many people were inconvenienced. We were encouraged to accept a few temporary disturbances in the "spirit of generosity", as Coe called it. And of course, this language, along with a genuine wish to be welcoming, makes it difficult to complain. For some, the disruption was to travel, for some it meant missiles on their rooftop, for some it meant local common land being built on, and for others it meant eviction from their homes. Nevertheless, between them, the Olympics organising team, the media and the police did such a good job of squashing dissenting voices, that we ended up agreeing that anyone complaining was a party-pooper. We could ignore the 180 arrested critical mass cyclists, ignore the groups protesting about Olympic sponsors like Dow (linked to Bhopal disaster), G4S (human rights abuses), BP (one of the world's biggest polluters), Rio Tinto (poisonous mining), Atos (assessing and victimising disabled people) and Adidas (sweatshop production). Nothing could be allowed to spoil the party. And it WAS a fantastic party, but these ARE shit sponsors that should never have been invited and people's objections WERE valid and important.
So, the welcome was made. The wonderful volunteers made London a friendly place and when the athletes left, many commented on this. I for one would like to always have those helpful, cheerful people on hand at every tube and train station! Britain had welcomed in people from all over the world and as the official Olympics website says, 'showed the world what makes the UK such an exciting and diverse place to live'.
But some didn't leave. Having been shown what a great place it is to live, some athletes actually have the affront to want to live here! Several have disappeared, before the games and since, and as they have black and brown skin, they will soon become aware of the other side of our welcome to foreigners.
A study this year reported that black people are 30 times more likely to be stopped by police, than white people. In the run-up to the Olympics, there has been a huge upsurge in stops by Immigration Officers. According to the UK Border Agency's instructions, "an Immigration Officer (IO) may not stop an individual based upon their racial appearance and race and colour can never be the basis of the IO's 'reasonable suspicion' that someone has committed an immigration offence", yet having heard from several people stopped and questioned, there could have been no other reason for the intervention as they were walking down the street or shopping at the time!
So, I don't think the athletes (plus a 15 year old lad from Ethiopia who was a torch-bearer) will be free for very long. Their photos are online, the very media that celebrated them are also the media that lambast asylum-seekers and refugees daily. A large part of the population has long been conditioned to regard foreigners with suspicion and asylum-seekers as scroungers, criminals and potential terrorists.
I wish the absconders the very best of luck. They'll need it now the welcome's over.