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Staying out in the cold: Olympic killjoys?

By Sheena McKenzie
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 0841 GMT (1641 HKT)
"Has England ever been so foul with patriotism?" former Smiths front man Morrissey said of the Games. "Has England ever been so foul with patriotism?" former Smiths front man Morrissey said of the Games.
This charming man
The light fantastic?
Shot down
Brand London 2012
Taken for a ride?
Quiet capital
  • As London 2012 comes to a close, not everyone has fallen under the Olympic spell
  • Singer Morrissey criticized the "blustering jingoism" of Games
  • East London residents moved from their homes, others gone to jail
  • Promise of economic boom largely unfulfilled

(CNN) -- The circus has come to town and the villagers are in a frenzy. The light fantastic opening, the displays of super-human strength, the heroes born under the united roar of the crowd.

Who can deny the intoxicating beat of the Olympic drum?

Well, quite a few actually. Was it really wise spending $14 billion in these times of austerity? Surely it was heavy-handed to install missiles on residents' rooftops? The recruitment shambles involving security company G4S suggested embarrassing unpreparedness?

Yet it seems from the moment Danny Boyle took us on a whimsical journey through British history in the opening ceremony, that cynicism has melted away.

Opposing voices, which a year ago appeared the norm, are now labeled killjoys and whingers. Even London Mayor Boris Johnson told them to "put a sock in it" and support the greatest sporting show on earth.

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But those skeptical voices continue to murmur, with not everyone falling under the Olympic spell.

This charming man

"Has England ever been so foul with patriotism?" former Smiths front man Morrissey asked during the Games.

The flags draped over the shoulders of sobbing medalists were nothing short of "blustering jingoism" in the British rocker's eyes.

Those moments that had us gathered in fervor around the water cooler -- Michael Phelps' record medal haul, Usain Bolt's historic 100m and 200m runs, gold after gold for Team GB -- were positively perverse, according to the 1980s rock icon.

"It is lethal to witness. As London is suddenly promoted as a super-wealth brand, the England outside London shivers beneath cutbacks, tight circumstances and economic disasters," he said.

"Meanwhile the British media present 24-hour coverage of the "dazzling royals", laughing as they lavishly spend, as if such coverage is certain to make British society feel fully whole."

The other Olympics

Part of the reasoning behind the Olympic torch route was to make Britons feel part of the Games. But as it made its way from Athens to the stadium in Stratford, another very different flame was winding across London.

The Counter Olympics Torch, passed on from protesters at the Vancouver Winter Games, arrived at Leyton Marsh in Hackney to a small gathering of demonstrators.

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The homemade cone bore the banner "End Poverty" and represented "hope for all those for whom the Olympics has become a symbol of repression, eviction, greed and arrogance," according to organizers The Counter Olympic Network.

This was not the flame accompanied by David Beckham on a speed boat and sprinted into the roaring Olympic Stadium before a television audience of 900 million.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of euphoria during the Games. But when the TV isn't showing images of people winning medals it will be a very different story." Julian Cheyne, spokesman for The Counter Olympics Network told CNN.

"It claims to deliver lots of things such as tourists, inspiring people to take up sport, regenerating east London. But that's not the case.

"People have lost their homes, others have gone to jail, local businesses aren't going to get anything out of this."

Cheyne has reason to be angry. In 2007 he was moved out of his home on the Clays Lane Estate in Newham, east London, to make way for the site of the Olympics. A tenant for 16 years, Julian now lives in social housing in neighboring borough Tower Hamlets.

"Some people didn't mind moving. But I'd been living there since 1991. I was happy there," he said.

Jailhouse rock

Now the impressive Olympic Park is finally built, it is easy to forget what was on the site before. But the compulsory use of land has been a sore point for some east Londoners.

In April protesters camped for four weeks outside the building site of a temporary basketball court in nearby Leyton Marshes, Hackney.

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The demonstration finally ended in a standoff with police, with four of the protesters arrested and jailed for five days. One of them, 29-year-old Simon Moore, was handed an Anti Social Behavior Order (ASBO) and ordered to not to go within 100m of any Olympic venue or activity.

"The local people weren't consulted about a site that's very important to them," said Moore. "People walk their dogs there, run there, picnic there. It was almost like the Olympic juggernaut created this thing that just had to be done at any cost."

Despite his anger, Moore makes an important distinction between the athletes competing and the management of the Olympics.

"There are moments I've been caught up in the atmosphere. But let's have an Olympics that respects the community and leaves a lasting legacy. Let's have an equitable Games that's more than just a television experience," he added.

Brand London 2012

It is a sentiment shared by former Olympics sustainability commissioner, Meredith Alexander, who quit her role earlier this year after Dow Chemicals was awarded a major sponsorship deal -- including a fabric wrap around the stadium.

Campaigners argue Dow holds responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which at least 15,000 people died in a gas leak -- a claim which the company denies.

Dow bought Union Carbide -- the company which ran the pesticide plant -- 16 years after the disaster and argues it has no responsibility for Bhopal.

But for Meredith, the evidence was too damming to ignore.

"I think the Olympics belong to all of us -- it's supposed to be about celebrating our common humanity. But when you look at the sponsors, I find it impossible to see how the International Olympic Committee can square that with the ethics of these companies," she said.

Shot down

Away from the Park, Chris Nineham's looks out his kitchen window in east London to see anti-terrorist missiles perched on neighbors' rooftops. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Olympic skepticism is still rife for people living beneath these constant reminders of diabolical terror.

"Has England ever been so foul with patriotism?"
Former Smiths singer Morrissey

"The way the media is presenting the Olympics as a success just isn't reflective," said Nineham, spokesman for Stop the Olympic Missiles.

"When they change the concierge they consult you. But when they place weapons of mass destruction on top of your house there's zero consultation."

Boom times?

Before the Games started, Londoners had been told to prepare back-up plans for getting into work, lest they be swallowed by the swarms of tourists clogging peak-hour Tubes.

Likewise, businesses were assured of a recession-busting boom.

But the capital has been eerily quiet as Londoners fled on holiday and tourists appeared to side-step the Olympic town.

There will be a slight boost from the Games -- the economy is expected to grow by 0.6% immediately afterwards -- but the glow will fade.

"Once the games are over, the problems facing the UK economy will still be there," said Howard Archer, IHS Global Insight's chief UK and European economist.

He predicted ticket sales and a spurt in temporary work would help nudge the economy, but "GDP is likely to be only flat at best overall in 2012," added Archer.

And the economy could even take an extra hit from everyone watching the Olympics on TV instead of working, he warned.

Well, not quite everyone.

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