Vice Magazine’s ‘Guide To The Olympics’

Yesterday found me in the very plush surroundings of the Aubin Cinema (beneath Aubin & Wills’ clothing store in Shoreditch) for a screening of Vice Magazine’s ‘Guide To The Olympics’, launched today.

This being Vice Magazine, the title is rather misleading – the ‘Guide To The Olympics’ is actually a considered and well-researched critique looking at the negative aspects of the London 2012 Olympic Games. For example, it feature residents of the Carpenters Estate, who will lose their homes on the edge of the Olympic Park when University College London take over the land after the Games. Their concerns are that while the events of London 2012 are benefiting big business it is actually marginalising and disenfranchising the poor in Stratford. The Carpenters Estate will be the last of several residential areas to be cleared – many were displaced earlier during the construction of the Olympic Park, notably both Hackney and Newham’s Gypsy and Traveller communities as well as those who were living in the housing on Clays Lane.

Respected local author Iain Sinclair also features heavily in Vice’s ‘Guide To The Olympics’. His view is that the regeneration picture painted by LOCOG and others is actually false, explaining that a vibrant community existed in the area before the Games arrived – it was not the wasteland that popular media would have you believe. His opinion, which I find myself leaning towards, is that to replace the communities that used to occupy the area with expensive executive housing and the bland chain stores of Westfield, following what is in effect a big corporate sports day is ‘degeneration rather than regeneration‘.

Design guru Stephen Bayley casts his cynical eye over the logo and official merchandising of the London 2012 Olympic Games, even going so far as to smash some of the snowglobes and vases and turning a blowtorch on poor Wenlock! In fact he provides the most memorable quote of Vice’s documentary, stating that Wenlock and Mandeville are nothing more than ‘distorted, debased Smurfs‘. The documentary tackles other genuinely serious issues too – the decision to site missiles on local residential blocks, how local youth are feeling left out and find themselves under potential curfew, and a local lag’s joy at the increased opportunities for petty crime now that the Olympics have arrived.

Of course Vice Magazine does like to indulge the more base instincts of its readers from time to time, so there is some rather more light-hearted material in the mix – we get some interesting footage on the ‘Original Olimpick Games’ with its cloth-capped participants enjoying the shin-kicking competition, Olympic-themed pornography rears its ugly head, as does a troubled conspiracy theorist who believes that the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games will herald alien invasion and the commencement of a ‘New World Order’…

There is an inherent problem in putting together a documentary on such a topical and fast-moving subject however – some of the issues that have only very recently surfaced don’t feature. Neither the Adidas-branding debacle or the very recent closure of rights of way around Hackney Wick, which has let residents feeling very isolated as a result, are tackled. It does have a good crack at addressing the big issues however. I’ve included the video clip below but you can find the full ‘Guide To The Olympics’ over on┬áVice Magazine’s website here. Let me know what you think in the comments – it will definitely give you food for thought…