Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Tingle? I haven’t felt it yet.

It was hearing a presenter on the usually stolid Radio Five Live prattling on about the ‘Olympic Tingle’ on Friday morning that finally caused me to snap.

I know exactly what he was talking about, that feeling of transcendental joy that is supposed to have descended upon the country the moment the Olympic carnival finally rolled into town. Knowing what he was talking about though it not at all the same as sharing what he claimed to feel.

What I feel for the Olympics, and this probably makes me some kind of heretic, is nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Despite the best efforts of the media I remain determinedly neither shaken nor stirred.

Its not that I don’t recognise that the next month will see performed inspiring feats of endurance and skill, or that the Olympics provides welcome exposure for sports and sports people who are usually pushed out of the spotlight by mediocre footballers.

I’m even willing to concede that some people saw Friday night’s opening ceremony as a thrilling celebration of all that is quirky, warm and brilliant about being British. Although to me it resembled nothing so much as an opium induced nightmare designed by a committee of civil servants.

What I dislike is the corporate Olympics, the ugly carnival of unrestrained power and barely hidden corruption that has muscled its way into London bringing ‘zil lanes’ for Olympic officials and draconian bans on advertising by anyone other than official sponsors with it. It seems both insecure and bullying on the part of McDonalds to have demanded the sole concession to sell chips in the Olympic Park, for crying out loud they insist on calling them fries all the rest of the time then snaffle the rights to out national dish.

Actually while we’re on the point of sponsorship can anyone explain to me why a sporting event is solely sponsored by manufacturers of junk food? It sends out a decidedly mixed message, we want out kids to eat healthily but allow an event with global coverage to be funded by companies dedicated to making them fat.

Equally unappealing is the behaviour of the International Olympic Committee, who insist that their rules take precedence over national law in any country hosting the games. All the better, you suppose, to avoid those against demanding huge bribes in the form of luxury accommodation and the like. To add insult to injury there have already been embarrassing ranks of empty seats at events thanks to members of the ‘Olympic family’, IOC cronies to you and me, who didn’t feel like turning up. A nice slap in the face for all those people who struggled with the labyrinthine procedure to buy tickets only to come away empty handed.

The IOC alone aren’t to be blamed for the foolishness surrounding the games, home grown politicians seem incapable behaving sensibly. What purpose was served by insisting surface to air missiles must be stationed on East End tower blocks, apart, perhaps, from adolescent chest beating? How do politicians who preach austerity to single mothers and the unemployed square this with the £9.4 billion washed down the drain funding the Olympics? Why will nobody stop Boris Johnson from using this as a platform to launch his bid to be Tory leader and maybe even prime minister?

What sticks in my craw most is that the sort of questions asked above, indeed any criticism of the Olympics is instantly drowned out by a chorus of disapproval. How dare anyone question whether or not this really is the best use of time money and expertise? Maybe the ‘Olympic tingle’ is really the after effects of aversion therapy administered to drive off such unhelpful thoughts.

When the Olympic torch relay began I wrote that it was part of a ‘bread and circuses’ displacement activity designed to hide the problems besetting our country. I still hold that opinion now the show has finally moved into the big top.

Nothing will change because we have played host to a major sporting event. The economy will still be in the doldrums, last week the UK slipped further into recession. A generation of young people will still feel abandoned and increasingly frustrated. Worst of all the boys and girls in the Westminster bubble will have no more idea what to do after the circus has moved on.

Instead they will deliver pious lectures about the wrongness of paying trades people in cash and commission surveys on the happiness of the nation. This last farrago, incidentally, scaled heights of fatuousness hitherto unattained by humanity, if you’re poor and live in the inner city you’re more anxious and less happy than if you’re rich and live in the country; who’d have thought it eh?

In my own lefty, liberal way, I am patriotic and want to see Team GB win so many medals that small children think ‘God Save the Queen’ is the jingle that plays whenever someone switches the podium on, but I refuse to see the Olympics as a cure for all our problems.

At the end of the day I feel about the Olympics how W H Auden felt about the moon landings, they are worth seeing undoubtedly, but not worth the cost and the trouble of putting on the show. However many medals we will the problems facing the Team GB of which we are all part will still be there.

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