With the London Olympic Games staged in an inner-city location, the darker side of the sporting events has raised great concerns for both the British and tourists.
Concerns have been raised over a gamut of crimes from business fraud to night-time economy like the sex trade.
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Is London to be a magnet for prostitutes, criminal gangs, thieves, conmen, and drug pushers during the Olympic Games? Are the sporting events to bestow such gifts on Londoners? Or are such gifts to remain an Olympic legacy for some time?
In only one example of Olympic Games-related online scams, scammers bilked $200,000 out of a US victim. This time it was a phony contract to provide transportation for police throughout the Olympics not fake tickets and non-existent hotel rooms.
“It’s an awful state of affairs, and visitors to London must be extremely careful”, the owner of a rental agency in London told The Independent
Earlier in June, a two-month undercover investigation by The Sunday Times
revealed that Olympics officials had sold thousands of tickets for the London Games for up to ten times their value on the black market.
Among the tickets sold on the black market were those for major events like the opening ceremony which was held on July 27 with the British Queen opening the 2012 Olympic Games.
In June 2012 less than a month before the London Olympic Games began, New South Wales Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts warned the Australian people that the London Olympics “may be the most scammed sporting event in history.”
Moreover, British authorities have warned that even people who rent from genuine rentals can be caught by surprise when they discover a number of hidden charges like sales tax, which is currently 20 percent in Britain.
Ticket frauds and online scammers form a small portion of London Olympics-related crimes as London is expected to be infested with Olympic-crime gangs.
The British police have warned against teams of organized criminal gangs that are planning a crime blitz in London passing themselves off as plain-clothes officers or even posing as policemen.
This comes as minor threats to Londoners and Olympic tourists are being dismissed as security officials are obsessed with what they call Olympic terror threats.
But, writing for The Guardian
, Jules Boykoff says such obsession is just some sort of crackdown on political activism as “security officials are exploiting the Olympics as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to multiply and militarise their weapon stocks, laminating another layer on to the surveillance state.”
With surface-to-air missiles deployed on private flats and a Royal Navy warship moored on the Thames, security measures of the London Olympics are criticized not only by analysts but also by ordinary Londoners who urge the police to tackle the issues directly linked to their lives.
Almost one month before the opening of the Olympic Games, residents and workers from Tower Hamlets called on the police to stop victimizing women and focus on those who perpetrate violence against women, sex traffickers, and drug dealers.
In 2009, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) issued a warning that London could see an increase in the number of not only trafficked women but also domestic attacks, rape, and sexual assaults following increased drinking.
In 2010, Tessa Jowell, the British government’s Olympics minister at the time, said “even one woman trafficked because of Olympics is one too many”. However, two years later and almost three months before the start of the Games, Dennis Hof, the owner of a brothel in Nevada, the US, predicted there would be 1,000 trafficked women in London during the Games.
“I expect 1,000 girls to be trafficked in by Southeast Asian, Albanian, and African gangs, violent gangs involved in crime and drugs”, said Hof.
Hof also predicted that the London Olympics would bring traffickers an income of one billion pounds which “won’t be taxed and will be stolen away from London”.
While women trafficking is one of Londoners’ great concerns, children’s charity Barnardo’s has warned the British people against “child sexual exploitation”.
Barnardo’s says “there is a very real threat of internal trafficking of UK children to London for sexual exploitation during the 2012 Olympic Games”.
British officials hope that the London Olympics can rescue the country’s economy, which has entered a double-dip recession. Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his hopes that the London Olympics could be a goldmine for the British economy, bringing the country benefits over the next four years from foreign investment, tourism, and additional sales by British companies. However, London Olympics-related crimes are a real threat to the image of London and might be able to make all the economic hopes go up in smoke.