Posts Tagged ‘Ramadan’

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival – 2012 On Saturday 4th August 2012 much of the nation and all of the media were in the grip of another sporting obsession the 2012 London Olympics and two of the events I covered had at least some link to this. The third was something rather more serious, celebrating the work of one of the great heroes of the Second World War, not a military hero but a man who saved the lives of many.


Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation – Adidas, Oxford St

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want held a protest outside Adidas on Oxford Street, playing games and handing out leaflets because workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want stated:
Around the world thousands of workers, mainly women, producing clothes for Adidas are not paid enough to live. There wages do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare.
With such low wages, workers have to work excessive hours just to scrape together enough to get by, sometimes beyond legal limits – up to 15 hours a day.
In many cases workers are told that if they try to organise trade unions to defend their rights, they face harassment or they will be fired.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

Around 20 police stood around watching as War On Want began their games in protest, and they stopped play as the protesters began their badminton game using a banner as a net, claiming it might endanger people walking past. The street was even more crowded than usual with people who had come to London to attend the events, some of whom stopped to talk with the protesters and express their disgust at the exploitation of foreign workers, but the action by Scottish police drafted down to London perhaps reflected a lack of experience in dealing with protests.

The badminton continued for a few minutes in a side street, and then they turned to a rather short hurdles event. Again when they ‘ran’ this on the pavement in front of the Adidas shop police fairly soon stopped it, perhaps because Adidas complained that half the area of pavement was its property.

As well as leaflets, War On Want was handing out Freepost postcards to people to send to Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, care of War on Want, calling for Adidas to end the exploitation of workers.

Unusually Adidas sent out a person from their PR agency to talk to me as I began to take pictures of the event, and she later sent me an e-mail stating Adidas was “fully committed to protecting workers rights and to ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain.” Unfortunately it was clearly an attempt to mislead as it was irrelevant to the claims that were made by War on Want about wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China producing goods for Adidas. She also said that they had tried to contact War on Want to discuss their claims but had been unable to do so.

A War on Want press release gave full links to the cases on which their claims were made and stressed that they had taken part in discussions with Adidas, “but the multinational continues to deny the widespread nature of the problems and has failed to respond to the organisation’s demands that the firm commits to paying a living wage.”

Of course Adidas is not the only major sponsor of London 2012 and other major sporting events – and London 2012 showed itself also to be blind to the activities of Dow, Atos, BP and all the others.

More at Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation.


Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary – Great Cumberland Place

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

A ceremony took place around the monument erected to Raoul Wallenberg in 1997 in Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. Led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld it was attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Swedish Ambassador as well as many from the synagogue and the Swedish Church in London.

Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue leading the chanting of a Psalm in Hebrew

Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church talked about Wallenberg, who he called ‘an average man’ who grew up in a banking family but was too sensible, too friendly and too nice to be a banker and so became a businessman. Faced with the situation of thousands of Jews being sent to their death in Hungary he did everything he could to help, following the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be yourself and to do good for other people, an ordinary man who was brave when the time came and became one of Sweden’s greatest heroes.

The Swedish Ambassador lays one of several wreaths

The memorial shows Wallenberg standing in front a a large wall made of stacks of the roughly 100,000 very official looking ‘protective passports’ he issued identifying the bearer as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation. Although these had no legal status, they looked impressive and, sometimes with the aid of a little bribery, saved the bearers from deportation.

Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary


Iraq Day Festival – Queen’s Walk, South Bank

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

The Iraq Day 2012 festival also had an Olympic link, being “organized to celebrate the games with a hint of Iraq flavor” by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima-Baghdad in conjunction with the Local Leader London 2012 program.

Although it aimed to build stronger relationships among British-Iraqi communities and promote the the rich cultural heritage of Iraq including its music, food and art in several ways it actually demonstrated the differences between different Iraqi communities.

Given the continuing political divisions and unrest in Iraq after the US-led invasion the stated aim to promote tourism to the country seems entirely wishful thinking. Current UK advice on travel to Iraq begins “Iraq remains subject to regional tensions. Militia groups opposed to western presence in Iraq continue to pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq – including through attacks on Global Coalition military bases, diplomatic premises, and foreign nationals…” and ends with the paragraph “If you’re travelling or moving to Iraq, you should take appropriate security precautions before travelling. Outside of the Kurdistan Region you are strongly advised to employ a private security company, make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport and consider pre-deployment training.

US travel advice is even blunter: “Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.”

I saw one performer storm off the platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against the Kurds and overheard a loud and bitter argument between the director of a fashion show and the event organisers. I’d been told the show would start in two minutes and when I went home an hour later it still had not happened.

Afternoon prayers

There was a great deal of Iraqi food on offer, and while many of those going past along the riverside walk stopped to taste and buy some this was perhaps rather insensitive so far as many of the Iraqis present were concerned. The event was taking place during Ramadan and although they could see and smell the Iraqi food on offer they were fasting until after sunset at 2041.