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Are the 2012 Olympic Games whitewashing London?

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The east London street art scene is world renowned. Authorities say no official clean up effort is in place, but artists disagree.

Banksy

London is known as a mecca for street art.

It is not surprising that one of the only internationally famous street artists, Banksy, was raised only 2 hours away in Bristol.

Banksy is celebrated by many, but the fact that the city allegedly takes great pains to preserve his work while increasingly whitewashing other neighborhoods is raising tensions.

Darren Cullen, a professional artist who was arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage over his links to a graffiti website, is baffled by the clean up efforts.

Before being arrested, Cullen was approached to paint the Athletes' Village. Now he is banned from going anywhere near the Olympic games.

"I have no idea why the authorities are trying to clean the street up," Cullen said.

"That is what east London is known for. It is the mecca, the number one place for street art in the world.

"Areas around east London have had street art on walls for near enough two to three years and they haven't been touched and now all of a sudden there's this clean up. It's obviously because of the Olympics."

City authorities deny any connection between increased whitewashing efforts and the Olympics.

"Authorities say that there has been no official remit for graffiti to be removed - rather, they just clean the walls if someone complains," writes Rebecca Cafe of the BBC News.

"There's a difference between low grade tagging and the work people like Banksy do," said Helen Bingham, campaigns manager for Keep Britain Tidy.

Banksy, 2010

Street artists like Mau Mau have a very different take.

Mau Mau recently painted a piece commenting on the Olympic's alleged environmental and corporate impacts. It was painted, with permission, on the side of a privately-owned warehouse in Ealing, west London.

It lasted six days.

Mau Mau's 2012 mural

A spokeswoman for Ealing Council said the piece was removed following a complaint - not as part of a larger program.

"There's a difference between low grade tagging and the work people like Banksy do.

"It's nice that the whole country is getting a facelift. Graffiti makes an area look neglected and unloved and it impacts how people feel about an area," Bingham said.

Street artist Roa's mural of a crane, covered by Olympic banner.

I'm sorry, I must be confused. Are we living in the 1990s?

Should we also expect the razing of low income communities?

Oh right, Brazil already started on that in preparation for the 2016 Games.

Is it just me, or is a campaign for "tidiness" missing the mark?

It is good to hear residents are taking action. In Brick Lane, a petition successfully removed an Olympic banner covering a locally beloved mural.

The banner stated: "Olympic 2012 Curry Capital".

I guess Brick Lane is not considered tidy enough? Better to stay safe and celebrate food diversity?

[via: BBC News]

Images: BBC News; Wooster Collective

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure