Apparently, I’m not alone in my lack of conviction for the success of the London Olympiad and the ensuing benefits it will bring. Of a poll of economists by Reuters, the majority believed the Games will produce a short, sharp, financial boost and little else.
But, sure, I’ll probably watch selectively, my appetite hyped as the competition intensifies, though I’ll draw the line at synchronised swimming. Despite smiley girls in smudge-proof make-up bobbing up and down in a pool, it’s about as enthralling as playing ludo with the dog.
Not that I’m a misogynist. So, at the risk of inflaming feminists, the ladies beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade is already pencilled in on my wall calendar. And, from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, it’ll be nice to see female athletes actually looking like women, rather than the steroid-stoked Eastern European shot-putters of the 60s and 70s, who made sumo wrestlers appear seven-stone weaklings.
Despite a serial ticketing fiasco and an absurd logo – it looks like the product of a deranged mind or a designer, inspired by the muesli he’d just vomited up after breakfast – hats off to the London Organising Committee who’ve delivered impressive stadia on time
Naturally, as Seb Coe and Boris Johnson incessantly bleat, there’ll be an Olympic legacy from which the entire country will benefit. What it is – and quite how they’ll fill the vacuous arenas afterwards – only time will tell. So let’s be optimistic the £10bn Britain can’t afford to stage the spectacular will be well spent, if only to provide doss houses for the homeless.
Of recent Games, only Sydney has had a long-term kickback on its investment and Athens, whose 2004 Olympic facilities are mainly reduced to crumbling ruins, must be cursing the day Baron Pierre de Coubertin dreamed up the notion of a modern Olympiad in 1894, nearly 16 centuries after the ancient Greeks ditched it.
Trust a Frenchman, eh. But to be fair to the visionary aristo, he based it as much in on the old, Grecian ideal as an 1860s event, started by Dr William Penny Brookes, in Shropshire: the Wenlock Olympian Games.
However, unlike the Wenlock version, which receives scant coverage, the real Olympics are hardly the People’s Games. No, they belongs to big business battalions, which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is, along with its major sponsors, three of whom – McDonalds, Coca Cola and Cadbury – have come in for some stick over the products they peddle, which nutrition warriors claim are not exactly health-enhancing.
Nevertheless, London will be at the hub of the universe as never before, overflowing with dignitaries, many of whom you wouldn’t want as your kids’ godparents – or, as Roy Keane might dub them, the ‘prawn sandwich’ brigade – who’ll be whooshed to venues in the so-called Zil Lanes from the West to the East End, between dining out at The Ivy and plundering mini-bars at £1,000-a-night hostelries, all exes paid.
That’s provided the newly-mended M4 doesn’t collapse, some visitors don’t spend the two weeks negotiating Heathrow immigration and London doesn’t resemble Bangladesh in monsoon season.
Finally, one last hurdle has to be overcome: security.
G4S, the company awarded the £284M contract to police the Games has cocked up Gold Medal-style, having been contracted to provide 10,400 civilian guards. But, with literally days to go, only 4,000 staff are working, while a further 9,000 are ‘in the pipeline’. These have to finish training, undergo security checks, be allocated rosters, get accreditation and collect their uniforms.
Hence, the government has been forced to call in the Armed Services and a contingent of 3,500 personnel, many just returned from Afghanistan, have been mustered, with more on stand-by if needed.
Coming at a time of swingeing cuts in our troop numbers, this only further amplifies the fiasco…though it provides a new recruitment slogan: Join the Navy – and see the Games.