I had thought I wouldn’t blog on the Olympics: it’s not exactly a global health issue and I’ll just alienate our one subscriber. However, if Duncan Green can get away with it, why can’t I? So, in no particular order, here’s ten reasons why I don’t love the Olympics and one reason why I sort of definitely do. 

Ten funerals

#1 Pissing on Wordsworth’s tomb. A great simile from Educating Rita delivered expertly by Michael Caine: “Taking the name of literature in vain is like pissing on Wordsworth’s tomb”. As is speaking ill of the Olympics, apparently. Try out a few of the following in polite company and see if you don’t leave a bad smell.

#2 The ‘gladiator’ effect. Russel Crowe may have been the Gladiator, but the scheming wannabe Emperor Gracchus had all the good lines. Like this one: “I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it’s the sand of the coliseum”. In short, there’s nothing quite like a spectacle to take our minds off things like oh, I don’t know, global economic meltdown? All together now, oooh, look at the pretty lights!

# 3 It’s not about the sport, it’s all about you! Just as the newspaper is not primarily interested in news but in selling you, the reader, to its advertisers, so too the Olympics is not primarily about sport. The Olympics is selling you, the viewer, to its advertise…sorry, ‘sponsors’.

#4 Corporate Inc. Nothing new to say here. You’ve seen it; heard it; bought the burger. But for the love of Mamon, doesn’t it bother you – I mean at all – that McDonald’s is providing the catering! Or that BP, yes BP, is a ‘sustainability partner’ of the Olympics!

woman jumping into sand

#5 Role models. Sportsmen and women are lousy role models. What do they do all day? Train. To do one thing. What a waste. I’m all for sport but, really, I hope my son does something more meaningful with his life than become really good at jumping into a sandpit. Obedient, wholesome, ‘nice’ – all the things no child should ever be. There’s a reason why Daley Thomson was so popular (whistling through the national anthem – naughty!) and there’s a reason why athletes are encouraged to be so squeaky clean (apart from being afraid of losing lucrative advertising deals). Sportspeople perform the same political function as all those statues of political dignitaries you see in Parliament Square – they gently remind us that we are nationals subjugated by a nation state.

#6 Sprinters. The worst kind of narcissist. All athletes love their bodies, but oh my Jack Lord do sprinters love themselves! (see # 5). If you must run fast, and you really don’t have to you know, please keep your shirts on at the finish line. Who do you think you are, Gordon Ramsey? Of course, Corporates love sprinters more than they love themselves (see # 4). Hey Usain, do that Ke-razy thing you do with your arms, and don’t forget to flash your Pumas to the cameras. No, higher.

Dignity is so yesterday

# 7 Perspective. It’s a sports event. Get over it.

# 8 Olymponomics. Hard to believe that the original budget for the Olympics was £1.5bn. In 2005 that figure was upped to £2.375bn, the official figure for the bid, a hike that caused much consternation at the time. Estimates vary, but the cost in 2012 is estimated to be around £10bn, or 400% over budget. That figure will increase. Oxford University researchers tell us that this always happens with the Olympics. They blame the overrun on context, inexperience, and lack of information. But why weren’t we given this knowledge of estimates in 2005?  For the same reasons that make it is so hard to get accurate total figures of cost in 2012. Alison Stewart nails it for me: ‘The figures that are in the public domain are unlikely to be the full final cost of the Games, but represent ‘politically acceptable’ costs”. Telling us the truth is simply not politically acceptable.

# 9 Due to rights restrictions. This has kind of been resolved, but boy did the manic and unpredictable looped message on our radio during BBC Radio 4 news bulletins – ‘due to rights restrictions this portion of the show is not available’ – really stick in my craw. Whose rights? I live in Italy and I pay my licence fee. So tell me the goddam news! The BBC’s bizarre (see #11) excuse for interrupting my edification was: “it’s a great shame but people living abroad don’t pay the licence fee”. Hmmm, well, anyone can listen to BBC Radios 1-4 whether or not they pay the licence fee. That’s always been the case.

# 10 Moro’s allotment. A word of explanation. The excellent Moro restaurant used to have an allotment where they’d grow the veg they sold in their restaurant. In 2007 the Olympics came along and bulldozed it. #10 is just a note of recognition of the small things that we’ve lost. I bet the McD’s restaurant is on that site – there would be irony.

Oscar Pistorius: A true Olympiad

And one wedding…

Ok, so those are my ten funerals. But what about the wedding? To start with another funeral – where are we up to? Lord Coe of Smugton was #11 so we must be up to #12 – #12 The Parallel Oympics or paralympics. What’s with the distinction? There’s the Olympics, period. Enough of this ‘Para’ business. I’m genuinely excited about advances in prosthetic technology and the potential it has to unite the Games. The real challenge is cultural. Oscar Pistorius was my man of the Olympics even before we knew he would be running in the 4x400m relay. I can’t wait! Go Oscar! (not that I’ll be watching of course, bah humbug!)