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Reasons I Loathe The Olympics

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 16 July 2012

I am sure that some of you are gripped by the impending Olympics. Perhaps you are turning out to watch some fat school kid carry the torch past your house, or carrying your own fake torch in a local celebration. The Government media machine tells us that we are all being swept up by a wave of enthusiasm so helping bring us together as communities and as a nation. Count me out. The whole event offends me in almost every conceivable way. I know that I am not entirely alone in my way of thinking. One person whose thoughts are always interesting and almost always correct (a reverse Polly Toynbee) expressed their strong views on this matter to me yesterday. So that makes two of us. I am sure that whatever the spinmeisters of City Hall and Whitehall say, there must be more.

For what it is worth, when the Government spin machine keeps on repeating that the whole nation is gripped by Olympic fever, my instinct is to assume that it is not. I suspect that I am not alone in wishing the whole thing at an end and viewing it in the way you view a drunken mishap as it reaches its embarrassing conclusion. You wish that it just comes to an end, you regret it and just do not talk about it afterwards.

As a taxpayer I resent the cost. No-one in either this administration or the last seems to realise that Britain is bust. Debt to GDP is 65% and rising as this Government racks up deficits even greater than those Brown and Balls contrived to create. We are heading fast towards the 80% tipping point. The original budget for the games was £2.2 billion. It will cost £9 billion plus. Telling me that G4S could not organise a piss up in a brewery is one thing, it strikes me that a project that has run 300% over budget is not very well organised either. But then it was the Government in charge. I suppose when you are drowning in debt what is another £9 billion.

Aaah but Boris, Ken, Tessa, Call Me Dave and the rest of them say, what about the intangible legacy benefits. Legacy is a buzz word for 2012. Anything that is a legacy intangible cannot be measured and since it will happen in the future, when it does not happen those who cocked it up will already have moved on. This is all flannel.

One legacy benefit is that the Olympics are meant to inspire our kids to get more into sport and be healthier. Yeah right. The idea that the Government with its MacDonald’s sponsored “circuses” can cause cultural change with such an event is fanciful. Will Britain’s kids decide en masse to get healthier as a result of hours spent in from of the goggle box watching the games? Nope. If parents want their kids to be less obese stop allowing them to spread Nutella on everything, do not give them sweets & junk food provided by sponsoring Olympic companies on demand, give them a football for Christmas not another dreadful computer game and do not regard watching the Olympics as a calorie burning exercise. Nanny cannot make Britain’s kids healthier it is a matter of parental choice and the reality is that far too many parents appear not to give a damn. The games won’t change that.

Bit what of those nice new houses and sports facilities built in East London? What about them? Look at the facilities built for almost every other modern era Olympics. They cost the grateful taxpayer a bomb to maintain and usually fall into disuse. There is not much inherent demand for Olympic standard tennis facilities in an area where most folks think that a court is where you go after you are nicked and that a base line is pure Charlie. As for the athletes village? Yup right more expensive social housing in an area where no-one with money or aspiration would still want to live Olympics or no Olympics. Governments do not regenerate by splashing out taxpayers cash. They regenerate by cutting taxes and allowing enterprise to thrive. Turn the London borough of Newham into a tax-free zone and business will want to move there (like Docklands). Build an Olympic village and no long term regeneration takes place.

And so to the games themselves. Most of the sports are minority pursuits. They are so because, let’s face it, they are pretty dull to watch. I can think of a few reasons to watch women’s athletics or beach volleyball, I might just watch the football or cycling but that is about it. Be honest with yourself, you never watch 98% of the Olympic sports at any other time why the sudden interest now? They are dull sports. Would I start reading 9th rate books by Louise Mensch just because it is the Olympics? Her works will always be dull worthless pieces of pap even if Ms Mensch is invited to read them at the Hay Festival. So why should I also view underwater men’s synchronised weight lifting in a different light just because it is circus time?

The politicians revolt me as they chase freebies. I discussed their hypocrisy on this matter a few posts ago as it was revealed that a stack of MPs were off to watch the men’s 100 metres final courtesy of BT. I wrote then:

The MPs huff and puff and say they have slaved away for 5 years monitoring the games and so they need to trot along to see it in action so that they can serve the nation properly. Yeah right. So why not go, at your own expense, to the early stages of the 68 kg men’s weightlifting rather than be driven along in special cars for special people in special traffic lanes to an event which (for a reason that escapes me) everyone wants a ticket to? At this juncture I refer to Animal Farm, first published in 1945 as a leading pig stands up and says to those he “serves,” the “ordinary animals”:

“‘Comrades!’ he cried. ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.”

You can view the whole piece here.

Lecturing us on how much we are enjoying the whole affair as we the plebs are herded into cheap and expensive seats or watch on the box, while the elite swan in for the best seats at the top events is just par for the course. I gather that the women’s beach volleyball event is seeing Westminster’s highest turnout for years. But it is all in the line of duty.

And there is also the crass commercialism of the event. The only chips you can buy will be those anorexic French fries served up by MacDonald’s. Beer, it is probably the most expensive beer in London. But it comes from a games sponsor who has a monopoly. The TV is full of adverts from the official suppliers of skin cream, condoms, internet access and mushy peas to the games. Who gives a damn? Personally I’d rather a) be allowed to take my own food to a sporting event or b) have some sort of choice once there, hopefully not a price which forces me to take out a second mortgage.

Finally I turn to the athletes. We now know that in the 1970s virtually every record set was set as a result of drug enhanced cheating. So there are now stacks of women living in Eastern Germany who have grown testicles and a beard but at least they have a gold medal tucked away somewhere. Do athletes still cheat? Of course they do, it is just that they are smarter at avoiding detection. What is it that motivates them to win at all costs – the glory of a gold medal? Well perhaps for some. But ask them if they would rather win a million dollar bonus for setting a record time at some stage managed event in the UAE or win an Olympic gold and I wonder what they would honestly say. Do they crave glory and the honour of representing their nation or money and commercial endorsements? I do not know but rather suspect that most of them do not know who Baron de Coubertin was, let alone share his ideals.

And so that is it. Prepare yourself for three weeks of watching a bunch of money obsessed cheats taking part on a series of dull sports in front of an audience largely composed of fat men and women in suits with you picking up the tab at the end of it. But as you celebrate the bonding you feel with your community and the rest of your nation and the miraculous weight loss of all the kids in your street you will no doubt be celebrating too.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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