This orchestrated attempt to make the modern Olympics likeable is beyond parody
There’s been a joshy and generally good-natured Twitter exchange between The Slog, Daniel Finkelstein, and a few others this afternoon in response to @DannytheFink and his demand that we should Get Behind London 2012, and stop being such naysayers. The day after we won the venue in 2005, I got a considerably more vitriolic postbag on account of saying we would rue the day we were appointed hosts. Had we the choice today, I severely doubt that many in the political and media Establishment would take up the barmy idea of blowing 12+ billion quid (roughly the same sum as Draper Osborne has ‘saved’ so far in his doomed attempt to clamber out of Britain’s debt pit) to stage a range of minority sports of little spectator attraction and even less excitement.
As a footie fan, I’d have thought Danny would be able to spot the difference between the floodlit excitement of what is still the most fascinating sport on the planet, and somebody vaulting over a gym-horse. In fact, it says a lot about football that – despite Finky’s employer doing his best to bugger the game up entirely – it remains intact as a thoroughly engaging, and at times mesmerising, team activity. Either way, it is the unenviable (but inevitable) role of the person who says, on August 5th 1914, “This is a bad idea” to be cast down as a glass-half-empty miseryguts.
It’ll all be over by Christmas you know, this, um, debt thingy. Things will be sorted out, and everything will be nice again with God in her Heaven. But in truth, the inability of otherwise intelligent people to see what bonkers ideas derivatives, the euro, globalism and deregulation were is inextricably linked to why I deplore almost everything about the contemporary Olympic Games, and all the insistence by those who ruined them that we should carry on enjoying ‘the spectacle’.
In 1948, the BBC paid 1,000 guineas for the right to televise the event. Every last competitor was an amateur whose sole sponsorship consisted of blagging some understanding employer to give them time off work to train, and some under-the-table help with the cost of getting to the host country. The opening ceremony consisted of the athletes walking round the track perimeter and waving at the crowd. The very simplicity of the occasion gave it gave it an awesome, glitz-free quality. The very amateur nature of the struggle to be there was an integral part of the personal endeavour involved in reaching the heights.
In a nutshell, the Games used to comprise a nationally hosted theatre of amateur-status giants from around the world at their peak. What the Olympics have been for some years now is a State politicised goldfish bowl of amateur-night organisation bankrolled by fascist brand globalism, and performed by OCD athletes who may or may not be using preformance enhancing drugs . Indeed, it is I think very telling that Locog’s ambition in preparing the Games was obviously – despite protestations to the contrary – to outdo Beijing’s self-glorification of State-guided growth with a twee, luvvie-leftie history of Great Britain, and glorification of its State health service. Danny Boyle’s creatively arid and politically altered version was really nothing more than a reflection of why we are hosting the Olympics this year: because an empty waster called Tony Blair wanted us to.
The first gangsters to see the Games as a vehicle for State bollocks were the Nazis in 1936. Riefenstahl filmed the athletes as a platform for Aryan superiority complex, Goebbels exploited the event as a way to make Nazi Germany smiley and acceptable, and Speer lit the whole thing as only a hubris-driven architect might. As a trained political historian, yes, I admit: it makes me thoroughly miserable to realise for the nth time that even apparently civilised and sophisticated observers truly cannot grasp the obvious parallel, or even ask themselves the simple question, “What on earth has British socio-political history got to do with the Olympic ideal?”
We should reverse that phrase, and ask ourselves what the ideal Olympics is today for the commercial, political and media elites. This too should be not so much a pause for thought, as something perverted enough to make the neck-hairs stand bolt upright. These are the key elements:
* A shady banker in charge of Trade & Investment benefits
* Ignoring the citizenry in favour of unearned VIP privilege
* Telling the taxpayer impolitely to get out of the way
* Putting State prestige far above athlete care
* Keeping a balls-tight grip on the media
* Hyping the host-nation’s medal chances
* Poor execution of the security brief, but…
* Credible denial of the existence of cockups as and when they appear
* The appearance of political egomaniacs ‘hailing’ every national success.
More specifically, these features can be applied to London 2012 as Lord Green, empty seats, Zil lanes, Boyle’s farrago of fantasy, write what I say – not what I do, UK Gold haul to exceed Beijing says Hunt, G4S, Lord Coe lying his head off, and David Cameron on the subject of female rowers.
Daniel Finkelstein’s response to my critique was a somewhat feeble, “and there are holes in the gruyere cheese”. Well Daniel, gruyere cheese is a tasteless and rubbery concoction I wouldn’t feed to my dogs: give me a French Cantal or Tom de chevre any day. And while you’re at it, give me the green peace of Lot et Garonne, give me Pays D’Oc Merlot over Coca-Cola, an honest ouvrier’s lunch above a McDonalds bowel-blocker, and life among the real people of Dorset, Devon and Aquitaine – most of them miles ahead of London’s deluded 2012ers in the marathon of life.