The London Olympics are not big business for everyone — sex workers say they are being cleared from the streets around the stadium to make the area more presentable for the Games.
While the UK’s limp economy hopes for an Olympic boost, police in Newham, the deprived east London borough that is home to the stadium, have closed about 80 brothels in the 18 months to March, a study by a local councilor shows.
“For the last two years we’ve seen a real increase in police activity in relation to sex work in the Olympic host boroughs,” said Georgina Perry, who runs Open Doors, a government project supporting east London prostitutes.
“Some of the women who sell sex have experienced so many brothel closures that they are now working on the street, and that is a much less safe place,” she said.
The expected influx of 2 million visitors for the Olympics has led British Prime Minister David Cameron to predict a ￡13 billion (US$20.2 billion) boost for the economy over the next four years.
However, the sex trade looks likely to miss out on any benefits, campaigners say.
Prostitution is legal in the UK, but keeping a brothel is outlawed, as are other related activities such as curb-crawling.
London’s Metropolitan Police have denied that the brothel raids were connected to the Olympics, saying they were “in response to community concerns.”
“Any police activity regarding prostitution has been undertaken as part of normal policing responsibilities,” a police spokeswoman said.
However, London Mayor Boris Johnson openly supports a crackdown on the sex trade ahead of the Olympics.
“We are determined to crack down on prostitution and human trafficking in the run up to the London 2012 Games,” a statement on his Web site reads.
Scotland Yard said it was unable to specify the number of east London brothels that have been raided and sex workers arrested in the run-up to the Olympics.
Yet charities working with local prostitutes, many of whom are migrants from Brazil and eastern Europe, have reported a spike in the number arrested.
Critics say the crackdown does little to stamp out the sex trade — it simply shifts it around the city, putting sex workers in danger.
Perry said brothel raids have forced prostitutes to confront the dangers of approaching strangers in cars, while clearing them from familiar areas disconnects them from services like Open Doors.
“They are already stigmatized, they are already vulnerable,” Perry said. “All that’s happening to them is that they’re moving further away from services that can support them.”
Still, not everyone is so unhappy about the crackdown.
Brick Lane, a stretch of curry restaurants that is home to London’s Bangladeshi community, lies just 7km from the Olympic Park.
“This area is a haven for drugs, prostitution and all the other crimes you can think of,” mother-of-three Lily Islam said, standing in the middle of her housing estate just off the famous street.
In the last few months, Islam has led a successful campaign to force police to keep prostitutes away from the estate, which its overwhelmingly Muslim residents say has been blighted by the sex trade for decades.
Like Perry, she is worries about the safety of sex workers, but said she and her friends were sick of walking their children through an estate littered with used condoms.
She suspects that the Games are part of the reason her local police have been so keen to help.
“I think with the Olympics coming, it’s highlighted the problem a bit more,” she said.
Scotland Yard has said there is no evidence that prostitution has risen in east London.
In fact, one sex worker said that her colleagues are bracing for a sharp fall in business.
“It’s a family event — it’s not like all the visitors are going to be single men,” Catherine Stephens said.
“It’s going to be a complete nightmare, and I think we’re all going to lose masses of money,” said Stephens, who has worked in brothels for more than a decade.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the clientele we normally see, because it’s going to be so difficult to get around,” she added.
Constructing intricate models with Lego has become an important part of preparation for French Open champion Iga Swiatek and the 19-year-old Pole is confident her game is shaping up for success on all kinds of surfaces. The 19-year-old Pole last year became the youngest woman to win the Roland Garros title since Monica Seles in 1992 and on Saturday she picked up the second trophy of her career at the Adelaide International. Swiatek has often attributed her success to her sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz, who has helped the Polish player improve her mental strength and process her thoughts during intense matches. Work on
RUTHLESS FORM: The 19-year-old Iga Swiatek downed world No. 12 Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-2 to claim the second title of her career, after winning Roland Garros last year French Open champion Iga Swiatek yesterday crushed world No. 12 Belinda Bencic in straight sets to claim the Adelaide International at Memorial Drive. The 19-year-old Pole was in ruthless form as she downed Bencic 6-2, 6-2 to claim the second title of her career. Swiatek burst onto the tennis scene at Roland Garros last year when she claimed the French Open crown, defeating then world No. 6 Sofia Kenin in the final. She started strongly against Bencic and never eased up, breaking her Swiss opponent twice in each set to wrap up a comfortable win. Both players were untroubled, holding their opening service games
Paul McBeth, the world’s top-ranked disc golfer, has become the richest athlete in the sport’s history after signing a record US$10 million endorsement contract with Discraft to represent the manufacturer through 2031. “It’s mind-blowing to me to think that the 17-year-old me — or even before that, the 14-year-old me — made the right move to put myself in this position and be able to propel the sport to potentially the next level,” McBeth said in a YouTube video announcing the blockbuster deal on Wednesday. “I feel like this is just the beginning.” The 30-year-old, from Huntington Beach, California, is widely regarded
A late sprint on the final bend on Friday earned Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber the gold medal in the Nordic combined event as he edged out Ilkka Herola of Finland by four-tenths of a second at the FIS Ski World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany. Japan’s Ryota Yamamoto recorded the longest ski jump of the competition to top the standings heading in to the 10km cross-country ski race, but he was soon left behind as the stronger skiers engaged in a tough battle at the front of the field. On the final lap, reigning champion and world cup leader Riiber was perfectly positioned