Fri, September 20, 2013

Games not the same for London prostitutes

By THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency


Prostitutes don't have it as good at these Olympics as they have had at previous events.

LONDON - And now — turn down the lights and switch on the projector please — we bring you up to date on the history of Olympic debauchery.

Or at least how prostitutes are now more likely to lose their shirts during the Games.

Every time the world gathers for greatness, the headlines reach down low.

That prostitutes are expected to flood into a host city, “Ho’ing For Gold”.

Here in London, escort agencies, using Olympic sounding names, started to pop up online as the more official welcome mat was rolled out to the world.

“During the Olympics,” notes one of those sites: “We understand that it is very important to offer an escort service that is very … discreet.” Calls to several of the services drew a very discreet response. They all hung up.

Georgina Perry, who works at Open Doors, a support project dealing directly with East London prostitutes around several of the main venues, says the Olympics are never good for the sex trade.

“All the studies show there’s no increase in sex workers,” she says of past Olympics, including the Winter Games in Vancouver.

One Canadian study found concerns over an increase in sex trade workers during our Winter Olympics never took place, and local prostitutes were instead moved away from their usual spots.

The same has happened in London, with police in Newham, the borough where the Olympic stadium is located, locking the doors on an estimated 80 brothels last March.

Police said it was because of public demand. But London Mayor Boris Johnson has made no bones about where he stands, posting on his site: “We are determined to crack down on prostitution and human trafficking in the run up to the London 2012 Games.”

In fact, the arrests of London prostitutes began in 2010 with much tighter laws around brothels.

And the Olympics have not turned around their fortunes.

While different from borough to borough — those around Hackney have been largely left alone by police while in Stratford they have reportedly been pushed out — Perry explained: “The women have said it’s very quiet.”

The Olympics coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and that has added to the drop in customers, she adds.

Gone, it seems, are the good old days for your average harlot when the best athletes gathered.

“Prostitution was a huge deal in the ancient Games,” says historian Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.

The original festival attracted 40,000 sports fans — all male — to the remote religious sanctuary.

“And off the field the event developed a riotous carnival atmosphere,” Perrottet explains to me.

“Brothel owners … brought in teams of beautiful girls from around Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor.” Any good prostitute would try to get to the Olympics, and earn in five days what would normally take her a year to make.

Their male counterparts made a killing as well.

In fact, while we think of those original competitions as pure sport, Perrottet reminds that they were rife with cash rewards and cheating, starting in 336 BC, when Eupolus of Thessaly bribed three boxers to throw their fights against him.

At least one modern Olympian has learned from history.

New Zealand taekwondo fighter Logan Campbell opened a legal brothel in Auckland years ago to finance his sports dream.

In 2010, under pressure from the New Zealand Olympic Committee, he sold the 14-room cathouse.

But he made enough money to get him here to compete.

So if not London prostitutes, at least someone managed to return to the glory days of an Olympics without pants.