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The London Games, Seen Through A (Very) Critical Eye

Just as every Olympic athlete trains their heart out, every Olympic expert seems to wear themselves out describing what an unmitigated sham is being perpetrated on the host city. Many of those criticisms are valid, of course — especially concerns about overbuilding facilities.

For instance, NPR's Louisa Lim recently reported on China's Post-Olympic Woe: How To Fill An Empty Nest.

The story may ring a bell for residents of Montreal and other past Olympic host cities: A local government saddles itself with debt to erect monstrous structures with no discernable function in the city's future.

So, it's not uncommon to hear complaints, and London's no exception. Alarms have gone off over everything from security and financial concerns to worries about traffic. Last week, the outcry prompted London Mayor Boris Johnson to tell the critics to "put a sock in it."

But not many critics would write an entire book accusing the Olympics of being "the scam of scams," before the games even got started. That's just what writer Iain Sinclair has done. And with it, he's propelled himself to the front of the line at the complaints office.

Here's an excerpt from an NPR review of Sinclair's book, Ghost Milk: Recent Adventures Among the Future Ruins of London on the Eve of the Olympics:

"'The Olympic project, from the start, would be about security,' Sinclair observes. 'And budget. Baghdad conditions imported.' A Chinese-British photographer who walks the Olympics site with Sinclair observes that when it comes to security, Beijing has nothing on London: locals are forbidden from walking near the site, and private security guards threaten to arrest anyone with a camera. (Since Sinclair's book went to press the situation has got even worse: witness anti-aircraft missiles stationed in residential neighborhoods, snipers in helicopters and Marine units cruising up the Thames.)"

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.