There are three parts of the olympics, for me, and I’m trying to keep them separate.
The first is the sporting event, the celebration of and challenge to the greatest athletes of the time; Not only the famous athletics, the sprints, the marathons, the hurdles, the jumps long and high but also the less televised sports. Archery, Fencing, Shooting. I think it’s important to keep this separate from the other circles, purely because I don’t want to get it dirty.
The second is London. London’s my home, and I fully expect it to be so for some time. My old flat looked over the Stratford Olympic Park, and the creation of it, and the people who are dedicating their time and effort to making it a thing that the country and the world can be proud of is incredible.
But the third is the … opportunism. The rampant commercialism. The stupid branding exercises where you can’t buy chips without fish (Unless you go to McDonalds) where you can’t buy tickets with a Mastercard. Where you can’t take a rented cycle to the stadium, because they are sponsored by Barclays and Lloyds sponsored the games. Where we’re massively overbudget, outsourcing our security to a company with a track record of fucking up public contracts on a massive scale, where local councils use the games as an excuse to put though initiatives that the residents have voted down time and time again. Where we export the poor to Slough.
The problem is balance. The branding is bad, the government control is scary, but should it be allowed to overshadow the pure achievement of the games as a spectacle and a sporting event?
I don’t really want it to.
I watched the opening ceremony. Actually, it’s running in a window to my left as I type this. I’m listening to Hazel something-or-other read autocue trivia about South Africa, Huw Edwards occasionally lapse into death-and-destruction current affairs trivia, and Trevor Nelson being relentlessly, relentlessly banal about everything he sees.
A friend mentioned that he checked his cynicism at the door, and I think that’s necessary. Danny Boyle – who choreographed the whole thing – seems to have a good handle on what it needs to be, not only a celebration of the tattered remains of our national identity, but also a knowing presentation to the world of everything they expected to see. Industry, Top hats, James Bond, Corgies, the Queen leaping from a helicopter. Some parts were cringe-worthy, maudlin, nationalistic and occasionally smug; but in general I thought it was well presented.