The Olympics euphoria sweeping the country is unprecedented. I wasn’t around in 1908 or 1948, but I’ll bet the price of a ticket to the 100m final that it wasn’t like this.
It wasn’t like this at the Beijing Olympics either, when Team GB won 47 medals. Four years ago, there wasn’t blanket coverage on the Beeb every single night, breathlessly covering every single moment of the Games. The news agenda was not dominated by the Olympics sporting action. It certainly wasn’t obligatory to go around grinning and being nice, just cos the country was winning a few medals.
Why not revel in the feel-good factor, and wave the flag for Great Britain?
But this time it’s different. We are the hosts, inviting the world to our party. And a damn good one it is, too. Well, we’re enjoying it anyway (I’m not so sure about our guests – has anyone heard from them lately?)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It is only right and proper that we celebrate the sporting victories at the Games we are hosting. As a keen sports fan, I’ve been lapping up the action, jumping on the sofa as Jess powers over the finishing line, welling up as the Archery team crashes out in the early rounds.
If it’s a bit over-the-top, if balanced reporting has completely gone out of the window, then so what? Why not revel in the feel-good factor, and wave the flag for Great Britain (so much more comfortable than waving the flag for England, that’s for sure. Don’t go Scotland, we need you!) Plus, as Sir Chris ‘Our greatest Olympian’ Hoy noted, it’s nice to dispel all the doom and gloom that has monopolized the news headlines of late.
Sir Chris is right, of course. And yet…
One of the reasons London 2012 has so caught the public imagination is because the Olympics still retains the ideal of fair competition at its heart (unlike Premiership football, for example). So we get to watch competitors such as Gemma Gibbons, and Nicola Adams, and Bradley Wiggins, Brits who all grew up on similar streets to most of us. We see the likes of Qatari female runner Noor Al-Malki, and Niger’s rookie rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka, athletes whose endeavours appeal to our basic humanity.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
So, in essence, it’s about people. Ordinary folk doing extraordinary things. Which is why it sticks in the craw a bit that David Cameron is doing his best to let Olympic fervour obscure the cracks in Broken Britain.
We’re in a double-dip recession, youth unemployment is at record levels, the housing market has stalled, and the growth forecast for the economy is worse than Boris Johnson’s flying skills. And where’s Dave? Oh, he’s at the Athletics. And the boxing. And the sailing. And the velodrome (twice, I think). And he’s escorting election-rigging, brutal regime-supporting, let’s-just-say-it ‘evil bastard’ Vladimir Putin to the judo.
It seems as if ‘sports-mad’ Dave has little else to do at the moment apart from grab the best seats in the house
Of course the prime minister should attend the Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies, definitely. Perhaps even one or two events. But it seems as if ‘sports-mad’ Dave has little else to do at the moment apart from grab the best seats in the house at the party we paid for.
There’s been a lot of talk about the legacy of these Olympics. If Cameron and his government are serious about the Games ‘inspiring a generation’, then they should stop selling off school playing fields (21 to date), slashing the funding for grassroots sports (Sport England’s coffers cut by 33%), and destroying communities through unnecessary cuts to libraries, colleges, play areas, clinics, daycare centres… The list goes on.
Let’s cheer ourselves hoarse over the last few days of these wonderful, life-affirming London 2012 Olympics. But not you, Dave. You get back to No.10, and at least look like you’re working…