No, I don’t like the Olympics.
Today, the ‘torch’ is near to home, in Okehampton. Because of that, large numbers of people are thronging the streets (I imagine – obviously I’m here at my desk). It’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, I am told. It’ll never happen again, I am told.
Good. The Black Death was a once in the lifetime event for a lot of people. Doesn’t mean everyone wanted the experience.
So no, I am not persuaded.

And to celebrate English culture – oh, there’s not going to be any of that. No Morris.

Let’s be realistic. I dislike watching gymnastics generally. It does nothing for me to see other people participating in sports. In the same way, I don’t watch cricket, or football (I detest football).
The only sports I have been interested in are those in which I could participate. I enjoyed Karate for a long time. I am a keen pistol shooter and toxiphilite. I really like cycling.
But there is a clear theme running through this. I don’t like going to watch: I like taking part. And while I am competitive, it’s not competition against others. I don’t need to see someone else collapsing in tears of frustration to feel good. My interest has always been in improving my own abilities without reference to anyone else’s.
However, while I dislike gymnastics, while I find the thought of watching syncronized swimming less appealing than taking a dip in a fish tank full of piranha fish, and watching a bunch of runners dashing over a short distance (I cannot be bothered to do some research to find out what the actual lengths are) fills me with utter horror, I do not claim the right to stop other people watching. I don’t see why any group should have the right to stop another pursuing their pleasures.
However, if I could, I would stop the Olympics rolling round the world every four ruddy years. Few more pointless, foolish, extravagant means of wasting money and resources have ever been conceived, short of all-out war.
The whole system is set up to make money for large corporations and a few individuals. Large amounts of money.
Look at the set up.
The Olympic committee has massive power. They can persuade a winning nation to build a small city. Access to that city, for the weeks of the Olympics, can be provided on a preferential basis to the top brass of that organisation, so roads will be closed off and their use given solely to them. Increasing, by the way, the gridlock for everyone else. Specific rights are sold off to a small number of sponsors. And let’s not forget that in this good-health-fest the food suppliers will be McDonald’s, the drink suppliers will be Coca Cola.
McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Two companies which are hardly synonymous with good health or corporate best practise.
They, and their corporate companions, will be sponsoring the London Olympics to the tune of £1 billion. That is a lot.
Of course the after-effect of all this is an increase in sports across the UK. That is the stated aim, anyway.
What a farce.
The after-effects of the Olympics will be a mountain of trash with the badges of Coke and McDonalds. It will be a huge increase in global warming, with jets bringing thousands of people to London, it will be a debt bill that will take ages to pay off. And in terms of actual sports for the people of Britain – it’ll have a negligible effect for a short while.
It will not persuade old farts like me to take up running or swimming. It won’t persuade school children to do so. Those who want to and enjoy sports will seek them out and participate already.
However, the Olympics will cost the country billions of pounds. Some of that money could have gone into building or maintaining swimming pools, cycle paths, sports stadia and in training sports coaches.
Throughout the country, local authorities are closing sports fields and swimming pools. The great institutions created for us by our Victorian forebears are being shut and demolished for lack of funds. But in London nine billion pounds is going on the Olympics. Building the athletes’ village, which will become extortinately expensive housing; building the main stadium – who will run that afterwards? There are plenty of optimistic noises coming from people like Sebastian Coe, who runs a company called Complete Leisure Group. He has no ulterior motive, of course http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/sep/10/Olympics2012.politics
The whole sorry bandwagon is rolling on. Last time China; this year London – next time, where? I don’t know, and I really, really don’t care.
It is wasteful in the extreme. And, to be honest, plain daft. If we want to celebrate the Olympics, a better system would be to accept sponsorship from a nation, let that nation have the torch procession (an innovation, I am told, of Hitler, who knew a thing or two about controlling the media and public). But leave the Olympics where they belong. In Greece.
Yes. Why not stop the corporate sponsorship. In England it is next to impossible to use any of the Olympic logos without paying for the rights. You are not allowed in the stadium with a drinks brand other than Coke. Those seen with a Pepsi will be restrained and have their drinks removed. A can of Irn Bru could see you tasered, while if you munch on a Subway, God forbid, you will be terminated with extreme force.
I think I got that right.
In London a small kebab shop run by a Greek gentleman for fifteen years has been told to remove his legitimate business name because it’s called the ‘Olympic Kebab’. Can’t have people making money from things like that. The punters could get confused, and think his little taverna was a corporate sponsor!
Apart from anything else, the Greeks could do with a little good news. Having their Olympics return permanently to the place where they were invented would not be a bad way to celebrate them.
And for the rest of the world, it would mean stopping this four yearly nonsense of building entire towns to satisfy the whims of the Olympic Committee.

Postscript – Today Georgina Geikie (http://www.gseagency.com/portfolio/georgina-geikie/), I am told, carried the Olympic torch through Okehampton. I know Georgina because I used to shoot at the same pistol club as her.
Back in the 1990s, the pistol shooting sports in the UK were growing, and until Dunblane there was never any question about the UK’s pre-eminence in the shooting world. We always won a disproportionate number of Olympic medals.
However, after Dunblane pistol shooting was banned in the UK.

Friends practising their shooting in Kent. We used to be able to do this. Now Olympic, Commonwealth and other shooters have to travel abroad.

Now Olympic shooters are to come to Britain with their pistols and they will be allowed to compete in Britain. Does this mean an extraordinary risk to the British? No, because obviously Olympians are safe with guns. It’s only the British public who cannot be trusted.
That is why Georgina must travel to Switzerland to practise with her guns. She isn’t allowed to do so in England any more. So her success is disproportionate compared with those who are allowed to handle their guns daily, and go shooting regularly. She has been handicapped, like her peers, because of ill-thought-out gun control laws.
Seb Coe was a keen supporter of shooting. He was the chairman of the shooting fraternity in the west country until Dunblane. Of course after that day, he became a single-minded politician again, and refused to answer any calls from shooters.


Post-Postscript – And now I learn that the torch went out in Torrington. The brilliant design of this ludicrous cheese-grater means any gust of wind can blow it out. Ingenious or what!

14 Responses to “Olympics”
  1. Ralph Spurrier says:

    Mike – as usual I am with you 100% here. The hyperventilating BBC TV commentary only adds to the sense of dislocation with the real world. There are 8000 (eight thousand!!) torches for this relay – there was me thinking that it was just the one being passed hand to hand – and guess what? Yes, the runners are flogging them on Ebay together with their grotesquely chavvy sports outfits. Doesn’t that just sum up the whole shebang? The torches cost £450 each to produce = £3.6 million and the runners can purchase them for £200 which makes a net loss of £2 million. What was that quote about bread and circuses?


    • Yes, I saw the first ads on ebay for these things. It’s so sad and demeaning to see these things. And by the time the ruddy torches have been all round the country, everyone will be bored by the whole affair, apart from a few people – like Seb Coe, I guess!


  2. Brilliant, as usual. May I share?


  3. akhenkhan says:

    Just shared this on Twitter and Facebook Michael. I couldn’t agree more with what you said. The Olympics is the ultimate version of sport gone mad!


    • Many thanks, Jack. What I dislike intensely is people like Coe setting up companies to profit from it all. And the thought of all the years it’ll take to pay back the debt which means even more time before sporting facilities for the general public can be afforded. It’s a national disaster, winning these Olympics.


  4. Laura Marcus says:

    Entirely agree. And I’m a former London Marathon finisher. But the over hype is killing any enthusiasm I may have once held. And the greed and brand policing sickens me in time of austerity.


    • Thanks for that, Laura. Yes, the brand policing drives me to distraction. So over the top for what is necessary. The sponsors will profit massively without persecuting people like the Greek kebab shop owner. He was going to have to pay £1,000 to remove his business’s sign. Why the hell should he?


  5. Interesting: I agree with a lot of this but not all. There is a whole profession of sports management that knows about stuff like:
    1. facility legacy (i.e: what the buildings get used for afterwards) and there’s been much planning put into that aspect, I believe. For example, isn’t the stadium going to be taken on by West Ham United after the games?
    2. sport participation levels: it simply isn’t true that people will just do sport if they want to, and not do it if they don’t. You have to have the motivation, resources and the opportunity. The latter includes access to facilities – e.g: I played squash for many years, starting as a teenager because there happened to be squash courts nearby and they charged cheap prices for schoolchildren (my family was poor), and netball to international standard because it was taught in school. No way I could just decide randomly on my own to do those things.
    3. the public funding of sport in the UK focuses wholly on participation in sport – i.e: there’s not money available for the WATCHING of sport – unlike for the Arts, where there has historically been funding available for consumption of the arts as well as for the making/performing of them. And there has been a lot of money invested in grass roots sport development on the back of the 2012 Olympics.
    As for the corporate stuff and the hype, I completely agree. It’s politics mixed with big business and mainly about generating TV revenues (which by the way are very important to the participating sports). In many ways it would be better to have a permanent Olympic site.
    I’m going to the Olympics anyway because it will be a pleasure and a privilege to see elite athletes performing in the flesh.
    But definitely not the shooting.


    • Susan: I’d like to think you were right, but in terms of facility legacy, I very much doubt it.
      1. The West Ham bid is in a mess (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2012/05/west_ham_bid_overshadows_legac.html); and look at past Olympic events and the catastrophic costs involved.
      2. I agree with you – there has to be opportunity too. In London, Private Eye reported a while back that a big cycle route (the only one which was safe and avoided all roads) was closed so that sections could be taken over for the Olympics. Now apparently the route is lost to them and it will fall into part of the ‘Legacy’. Meanwhile swimming pools up and down the country are being closed and sports centres and fields being closed down and built over. After the Olympics there will be many fewer facilities, not more.
      3. And finally, on funding, I doubt that the Olympics will help anyone. The profits are going to companies involved – like Lord Coe’s.
      I believe that in years to come we’ll see that this will have been disastrous for sport generally. As I said, I think, I’ve no axe to grind against sport. I like my sports, and I tolerate other people’s (I detest football because of the crimes, the tribalism, the racism and generally the mind-numbing tedium, but I don’t advocate banning it). However the Olympics suck in billions every four years and achieve bugger all apart from enriching some building firms and a load of sponsors. And as for audience participation – well, Lord Coe has his seats, no doubt, but the likelihood of my being able to get to any of the sports that would mean anything to me are so vanishingly remote it’s not worth considering.
      So yes, more money for sports. Yes, more stadia and sports fields and swimming pools to help kids participate. But this is going to achieve the precise opposite.


  6. Ann Slicer says:

    yes Micheal I agree wholeheartly with all you say,we are supposed to be in a ressesion,if all the money for the Olympic was put back into the country where it is need most it will some way of getting back onto our feet,let the Greeks have it ,where it all started and maybe the poor people can get back to normal,they are really desperate now


  7. stormkhan says:

    I can agree with most of your comments on the Olympics. Well, it must be said, nearly all.

    I am not a sporty person but don’t demand “equality” or an Ambulance-chasing Solicitor’s Group to start my claim for “undue stress” for all the nonsense associated with the beanfeast that is the Olympics.

    I will admit that by virtue of history, hosting the Olympics is a BIG THING. However, the actual detail does take the shine of the kudos (a Greek concept). Not only does the host nation take on a vast debt – with a PROPOSED financial return – but it has to suck up to corporate sponsors such as MacDonalds ( well known for their healthy profits … er … foods and misleading promotions) and other … um … American firms that’ve invested a lot in this country. And its politicians. It has to ask for “sponsorship” because there’s a lot of money being invested into the games * on the offchance we’ll get something back *. If we don’t, the major sponsors can shrug their wide corporate shoulders and walk away – they paid for advertising and exclusivity. They’ve not gambled on anything else. They’ll always get a return.

    Meanwhile, Londoners have directly paid a premium (increasing rather than set as was originally posited) to have the transport system reduced to the Middle Ages (I’m sure you can see my point, Michael!) and “the financial heart of the world” disrupted to the point of angina. Those who can “profit from spin-off merchandising” either offer mate-rates to those who can produce written evidence of residence in London or pay (again!) the British Olympic organisation to use the words “Olympic”, “2012” or even “London”. Or, most practical, is retail outlets to increase all the prices so to “capture” the tourist market – in a capital city which has a reputation for being bloody expensive to start with!

    We’ve got the Olympics now, for better or for worse. A few people will make a bucket load of money and many might – might, note – make a bit of extra … after paying increased taxes and soaring costs. What’s the point of having an “Olde Englishe Chippy Shoppe” near the event if a big, fat Corporate lawyer is waiting for you as you’ve finished a two hour journey to get to your place of business? He want’s to have words with you – very expensive words – about your trying to exploit the event … JUST AS LORD COE TOLD YOU WOULD HAPPEN IF WE WON THE HOSTING.

    He’s all right. He can’t trouser his money enough. So much paper money, in fact, that if he tried to replay the Olympic event in which he’d won enough attention to earn some folks respect, and he heard the starting pistol not only would he find it difficult to move past a slow walk, he’d suspect he was being mugged and shit himself!

    Greece can’t afford the bribes and sponsorship that makes for a credible Olympic proposition. They’re almost to the point of civil war as it is … all thanks to France and Germany’s insistance of the Euro remaining in existance – and Cameron’s throwing our (not his) tax money into a failed fiscal policy (yet again a word derived from Greek) in the vague hope that his mates in big business won’t stop “investing” in Britain.



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