Anti-Olympic protesters are reported to be planning actions of mass civil disobedience on Saturday 28 July – the day on which Mark Cavendish hopes to secure Great Britain’s first gold medal of London 2012 in the men’s road race.
According to the Financial Times, the action is being planned by the group Our Olympics, which encompasses a broad range of groups ranging from members of the Occupy London protest to anti-capitalist protesters opposed to the commercial nature of the Games and their backing by big businesses such as McDonald’s and BP.
On its website, Our Olympics is calling on “all groups impacted by the Olympics, the misdeeds of it's [sic] sponsors and contractors, or the government which is selling Britain out from under us: clear your diary and join together with us on Saturday 28th July 2012 to make your voice heard.”
The group promises that “It's going to be a day we never forget.”
While the exact nature of the protests planned for that day have yet to be revealed, as one of the handful of Olympic events taking place outside the confines of stadia and other venues where access can easily be controlled, the road race is an obvious target – indeed, arguably the obvious target for that particular day, especially as the route has been devised to showcase London to the world at the beginning of the two-week event.
It’s also one for which, given the length of the route, it is impossible to guarantee complete security, and concerns have already been expressed that an individual protester might attempt to disrupt particular events, as defrocked priest Neil Horan did at Athens in 2004 during the marathon.
Fears of similar disruption at the London Games were heightened last month after self-styled “anti-elitist” protestor Trenton Oldfield disrupted last month’s Boat Race – running the risk of getting himself decapitated in the process.
Following that incident, British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan maintained that it was impossible to prevent people intent on causing disruption from taking similar action this summer.
"It just takes, and is likely to be, one idiot," said Moynihan, himself an Olympic silver medalist in rowing, having coxed the men’s eight at Moscow in 1980.
"It's not likely to be a well-orchestrated campaign through Twitter or websites,” he continued. “It is likely to be someone similar to the idiot yesterday who causes major disruption. That is why all the security measures need to be put in place to minimise the chance of that happening."
That opinion will have to be revised as a result of news of the planned mass action on 28 July.
“Someone has to create an unbearable social tension that forces these issues to be addressed,” said Our London founder Kerry-Anne Mendoza, quoted by the Financial Times.
“However many of us they put in jail, however many they give Olympic antisocial behaviour orders to, however many they put in police vans: the bottom line is our conversation is out there in the world,” she added.
The newspaper added that police officers from 51 forces as well as 13,500 members of the armed forces will be deployed in London this July, but the big fear for the organisers is likely to be that it is impossible to guarantee security – or the safety of competitors and spectators – at events such as the cycling road races and the marathons.
It adds that the Metropolitan Police has asked protesters to contact it so that a policing plan can be drawn up.
“We want to work with those who wish to protest so their point can be legitimately made, just as we are working closely with a range of agencies to ensure that the games can take place,” said a spokesman.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.