The Hidden Cost of the Olympics

Posted on August 30th, 2010

The arrival of the Olympics 2012 is much anticipated by the by the public in the UK, members of the press and professional sports men and women participating in this grand event. The cost of building Olympic stadiums and how they might be used by organisations such as West Ham Football Club in the future has been speculated on within the media. The general reporting of the 2012 Olympics might not be of interest to all Social Workers or the population of East London where the majority of the events will be held. However, during a drive home from a meeting regarding a trafficked woman who was used in the sex industry, an interesting discussion was taking place on the radio about the links between major sporting events and the increased number of sex workers close to the vicinity of these prestigious events in various countries.

The interviewer discussed the topic with a member of the Police force and a representative of the Poppy Project and the interviewees presented some interesting and rather discerning facts. They highlighted that during the Olympic games in Athens the number of sex industry workers doubled in number to ‘accommodate’ the crowds attending the event and despite the fact that prostitution is illegal in Greece there appears to have been limited social intervention to address this issue. The interviewees then reported that during the World Cup held in Germany where prostitution is legal, there was a similar trend in increased numbers of sex workers surrounding the major stadiums.

The Police officer reported that there have already been an increased number of applications for massage parlours in the Stratford area of East London, which is significant as these businesses are often used as ‘cover for brothels’. There are already indictors that women are arriving from other countries such as Brazil in preparation for the increased crowds at this sporting occasion and that these women are young, with the possibility of some being underage.

What was missing from the discussion was how the London borough was going to respond to the influx of sex workers from overseas. There was no indication from the Government as to whether it would increase the funding for extra child protection Social Workers or if financial support would be available for leaflets in different languages warning not only of sexually transmitted illnesses, but also information on refuges for women or men seeking support to remove themselves from an unsafe lifestyle. It might be too soon or not a message that the Government wishes to send to the general public, but there must be some type of education programme for Social Workers working near these sporting venues, to assist with children and young people being sold for sex. In addition, Social Work hospital teams may need to be more vigilant for signs of young men or women being injured by clients or those controlling illegal brothels.

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