So, Friday night, I’m sitting at home watching something on the History Channel (I think, if wasn’t that, it was something equally nerdy) when Diana texted me and asked if I was watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in London. To be honest, I had forgotten they were on. I love watching the Olympics, but I’m not a big fan of the opening ceremonies. I mean, what’s the point? It’s nothing but a big advertisement for whatever country is hosting that year. This time, everyone was excited to what the English would do to top the spectacle the Chinese put on last year. Unlike most people, I kind liked what the English did; it started with a very pastoral scene, a meadow, a farm, a cricket game. Then, all of that gave way to the factories and buildings of the Industrial Revolution and ended with a salute to Games: four of the Olympic rings descending from the sky to join the fifth that was forged on the ground by factory workers. That was topped off by what may the most unlikely entry of a monarch from the host country. Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, was joined by the Queen on a helicopter ride which culminated in a parachute drop into the stadium. Of course, we know Queen Elizabeth didn’t actually jump, but it was neat and showed the old girl has a sense of humor even if she doesn’t smile…, like ever.
You may be wondering what all this has to with my sense of justice. It’s like this: I can never watch overblown productions like opening ceremonies, weddings of celebrities or other big sports events without thinking “How many people could be fed with that money?” Or, in the case of this particular Olympic games, how many poor people were displaced from their homes so the Olympic village could be constructed? It’s important question, Many times, the venues are built in downtown areas that occupied mostly by the urban poor. According to groups that monitor this kind of thing, 2 million people have been displaced to make way for these huge events. And, the lasting legacy seems to be homelessness; in some cases, that homelessness is criminalized. Not a lot of Kingdom work going there, huh?
Most of the Olympic Park is situated in the East End, traditionally the poorest part of London. Most of us only know about because of Jack the Ripper, otherwise it’d be about well-known as the Bottom in Raleigh or The Hill in Greensboro. At least since the late 19th century, the East End has been the ratty, overcrowded home of poor people and immigrants. To build all the venues, shops, housing and everything else associated with the Games, thousands of inhabitants and 200 businesses employing 5000 people were moved out. Now, when the Games are over, the Olympic Village will be transformed into 1379 “affordable” homes to help alleviate some of the housing problems (the borough of Newham has a waiting list of 36,000) in the area. That sounds nice…, until you find out that only 25% of the homes will be available for social housing. The rest were bought up by housing associations who had limit the amount of social housing to get the needed loans and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Both groups will most assuredly rent or sell the homes at market prices; in other words, it’s just one more gentrification project.
By now, you see what I mean about an “over-developed sense of justice”. A lot of things we enjoy screw over poor people, which is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus would have us do. It’s a little irritating, this strong sense of justice; I have these feelings and there’s not must I can do about them. So, I write, in the hopes that maybe some day, I’ll have a loud enough voice that I can do something about them.