At the 'Austerity Games' on Hackney Marshes, just north of the London Olympic site, trade unionists and youth from across Britain competed in 10 events highlighting the problems youth now face and launching the 'A future for the 99%' manifesto.
Although the Austerity Games perhaps lacked some of the dedication and technical excellence of London's forthcoming major event, they were perhaps rather more entertaining. There was something highly amusing about the efforts of the hand-picked athletes taking part in the 'Deficit Discus', none of whom appeared ever to have handled the discus in their previous lives. Only the wandering of some spectators into the landing area a mere 200 ft or so away prevented my demonstration of the correct technique, and although I performed in slow motion the necessary movements, those taking part preferred instead to throw from a static standing position, from which they managed to reach levels of performance suitable for paying the hugely unnecessary bills for Trident, the troops in Afghanistan and even occasionally the huge tax evasion.
There was rather more prior art evident in the 'Property High Jump' though few managed to reach the income levels required to rent most property in London, though the banker benefited in the first round from a ladder to get him over the bar and later from friends in the City who removed the bar for his 'jump' and carefully replaced it after he had walked through.
Two of the photographers present (including myself) had earlier in a hors concours preliminary event demonstrated our ability in the Student Debt Weightlifting, but we were only performing at agraduate level of around £30 or 40 kilos, and were put to shame later by several contestants who managed to lift weights representing the huge debts required for masters degrees and doctorates, though not all managed to raise these above their heads.
Although it was possible at this Olympics to see all of the events without tickets I did miss the 'Job Jump' as I was busy watching the discus. Apparently although most of the competitors managed to reach the Workfare distance, and a few managed to gain Apprenticeship level, none of them could make the standing jump far enough to get a job - rather similar to real life for today's young people leaving education.
I was surprised to see the starter for the 'Race to the Bottom' bring out a pistol to start the race, and expected to see security men parachuting down from the airship photographing us from above or one of the two helicopters circling, but surprisingly nothing happened. The couple of police sent to watch over us had parked their vehicle on the field a few hundred yards away but by this time had gone into the changing room complex nearby to have a cup of tea. Hackney Council had closed the place to the public and refused permission for the Austerity Games to take place, asking the police to stop them happening, but the police had apparently told them they could do nothing about it. Apart from the lack of public conveniences this caused, the council action had no effect, but did rather show a sense of humour deficit.
There was some discussion about whether the medals for the Race to the Bottom should go to the first or last to finish, and I'm unsure what the final decision on this was. But as with the other events, gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded and the winners applauded as they stood on the podium. Things didn't quite go according to this plan in the 'Toss a Tory (Shotput)' perhaps because there was general agreement that the Tories were the champion tossers, and the banker competing grabbed all three medals.
I had to leave before the final Relay and closing speech, and the last event I photographed was the Hardship Hurdles, where the competitors had to surmount the scrapping of EMA, cuts in youth services, £9,000 a year university fees, unaffordable housing and unemployment. Since none of these affected the banker in the race who simply ran straight through all the hurdles, he was, as in life, the inevitable winner.
This was a fun event and on a rather smaller scale than the Olympics with a little under a hundred 'athletes' and spectators, costing virtually nothing but providing considerable entertainment for those taking part and watching. Unlike the Olympics which exist in a world of their own, it also drew attention to the serious problems we face, and was also the launch event for the 'Youth Fight for Jobs Manifesto', described as "A Future for the 99%, which lays out the problems faced by young people in Britain today and a strategy of how to get organised and fight for a decent future."