Saturday, July 21, 2012

London's nocturnal beauty vanishes

We went along today to see the Olympics torch procession through Stoke Newington, but the big story this week has been around security, with the army drafted in to cover for those G4S guards who have failed 'to materialise'.  Earlier this month residents of a tower block in Leytonstone lost their court case to prevent high velocity missiles being installed on their roof.  There are five other missiles sites, from Epping Forest to Shooter's Hill, along with a helicopter carrier moored on the Thames, Typhoon jets at RAF Northolt, and sniper-carrying Puma helicopters in Ilford. At the Olympics Airspace site you can download a 100-page manual which 'navigates pilots through the various security and operational airspace restrictions in place for the duration of the Games'  A map shows the prohibited zone for model aircraft, which covers the entire city.

All this makes me wonder how the Met's Air Support Unit, the 'avian police' that Sukhdev Sandhu interviewed for Artangel's Night Haunts project, will fit into the Olympics operations.  He asked one of them to describe the most beautiful thing he had seen at night.  "Oh, where do you begin?  The mist lying in the valleys takes your breath away.  The orange glow of the breaking dawn.  Or sometimes when there's a full moon you can see its reflection in the Thames..."  But these visions are reduced to black-and-white heat traces in the thermal imaging cameras used to scour the city for security threats.  'The thermal imagers themselves, though they're designed to help the police protect the city, produce images that resemble Baghdad, Vietnam - bombing zones for Allied troops. For a moment, London's nocturnal beauty vanishes: the forests seem ash-charred, lit-up areas ghostly apparitions.'

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