Sunday, July 31, 2011

Olympic Apathy

The official countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games has begun, but Brits still don't seem convinced it's ever going to happen.


I have to start by confessing that when Chicago pitched for the 2016 Games, I was aghast and very opposed. This was more to do with the rampant corruption that is Chicago politics than actually playing host to millions of extra tourists. And lord knows, the city could do with an injection of cash.

I am slightly amused however, by the negativity in some quarters towards the 2012 Games. It was exemplified last week with London Transport gloomily declaring that unless 50 million Londoners (OK, not quite that many) stayed off work for the duration of the Games, the public transport system simply wouldn't be able to cope. Dudes - you have a year to figure something out. Start thinking.

In the same week  Charles van Commenee, head coach of the British athletics team recently announced, "We've still got athletes who are underperforming at the moment. ...... Let's say if (400m runners) Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney run the times they've been running this summer again next year, then that's trouble".  Way to rally your team, coach! Mind you, he is Dutch!

There's lots of debate over how much it will cost versus how much extra cash will flood in, but one things for certain - the 2012 Games are going to happen. Better make the most of it.

Seriously, would you want these two as your mascot for anything?
(Click photo for article)


When the Olympic bidding was going on, there was a lot of public interest, but mainly because we wanted to beat the French.  And we did.  And everyone was happy.  The unofficial slogan should have been, “At least we kept the French from getting it.”  Soon, however, the fact that, having won the bid, we would actually have to host The Games sank in, and the unofficial slogan became, “It’s gonna be a bit shit.”

Over the ensuing years, there has been a growing resentment that the people were not asked if they wanted to spend billions of pounds and play host to millions of athletes and tourists, especially at a time when Britain is grimly enduring a prolonged season of austerity.  The government, on the other hand, is happy to spend the money and invite the world in on the supposition that the result will be a net gain of billions in revenue, and thereby a much-needed shot in the arm for the economy.  Good thinking; hosting the Olympics worked out really well for Greece, didn’t it.

That said, now that the countdown has officially begun, the tide, in my view, is beginning to turn.  Beginning to.  Slowly.  I do think that, by the time it arrives, we’ll all be pretty excited about it. Whether or not it bankrupts the economy remains to be seen.

Those are largely peripheral issues when compared to the Olympic Ideal, however, and for the good of The Games, I think Britain was the best country to get them after the spectacular that was the Beijing Olympics.  Every four years, up until then, each host country had to spend more and more to put on a more impressive show, and after the Chinese, who had the advantage of a billion slave labourers and no human rights, there was no way any country in the world could have put on anything to surpass them.  So the British, in a sense, are doing the world and the Olympic Games a favour by lowering the bar so that the next country won’t have to go bankrupt attempting to outdo the 2012 Games.

So, is it gonna be a bit shit?  Let’s hope not, but at least we can hope it will be tasteful and turn the spotlight back on the athletes and the spirit of friendly competition and the camaraderie of sport and the joy of taking part, instead of nationalism and keeping up with the Joneses. 


  1. This is normal British behaviour - we'll start getting excited about a week before the opening ceremony. The rest of 2012 will be spent basking in pride about how well we did it.

  2. I think the general attitude towards the Olympics is a reflection of British pessimism, and it's even rubbing off on me. Part of me just wants to get out of the country next August to avoid it all, but I think I would regret not being a part of the hype, even if only from the sidelines (no thanks to the way in which they handled the ticket sales!).

  3. Oh, I thought Britain was being relatively keen - well, you know, for us. (It's all relative.)I guess I got that impression from The Times; I wouldn't know what the rest of the media are saying.

    Granted, there were lots of put-out people who didn't get tickets, but at least that showed that lots of people were interested enough to apply.

    I'm quite excited about it, and I'll be glued to my telly for the duration. I'm actually not quite as excited about the one event that we have tickets for - women's hockey - but that's because Husband applied for tickets and picked them seemingly at random. Hockey is one that I wouldn't even bother to watch on the telly. Still, at least we didn't get dressage - if we had, I would have returned them.

    I think it'll all be fine. And I really hope Boris Johnson is still London Mayor then - it wouldn't be the same without him and his floppy hair, posh voice and bungling words. Good old Boris.

  4. Why would it be shit? The venues look beautiful and are ready a year ahead of schedule, interest in the games is so high that even the most obscure events have sold out (Mrs Baum, my sister applied for dressage tickets and didn't get them!), and it's all being done in a modest and thrifty way that should be an example of how to stage a games without bankrupting the host country. In all, it looks like being an outstanding game, and Moaning Minnies and hand-wringing Cassandras should just butt out. Oh, and I also adore Bumbling Boris - so different to the usual glossy android fronting most cities!

  5. I have a feeling it's going to be similar to the wedding. A few weeks before it, the press were reporting a huge lack of interest. Hardly anyone had applied for a permit to have a street party and most people didn't have plans to celebrate in any way. As we all know though, it was a pretty good party at the end of the day.

  6. I agree with Expat Mum. Nobody will care, but 5 days before everyone will suddenly become experts on athletics/dressage/synchronised swimming. Half the folk will still pretend not to care. Lots of moaning about the weather and the traffic will ensue. I can't wait!

  7. Mike, this is your writing at its funniest. Very astute observations.

    Toni, "way to rally your team" - ironic British humour at its finest.

  8. I am a massive fan of the Olympics. One year Dad and I both coincidentally had the whole time off, and made it a rule that we had to watch as many sports as possible. Especially the random ones. That was how we discovered synchronised diving, and dressage to music, both of which are absolutely hilarious if you record them and then watch them after a small beverage or 10...

    That said, there's a whole year still to go - if I get excited about it now, I'll run out by the time we get started.
    Plus my hopes and dreams did take a small bashing when I failed to get any tickets. I know not everyone could get them, those being the rules of a lottery, but it does temporarily dent the enthusiasm.

    Come about March next year, I'll be raring to go. And more so if we get teams training in my home town, which sounds likely. Go Team GB!

  9. I reckon it will be 'not very shit at all'. We can get our act together when we need to - see the Royal Wedding. And yes, I bet we'll be as enthusiastic as anything come the opening day, with all cynicism gone. I am really disappointed not to be in London for those weeks.

  10. Maybe It's Because I'm a LondonerAugust 3, 2011 at 3:01 AM

    Just as well London beat New York as well as London to host the games - with the economy of the 'greatest country on earth' in such shit (sorry Mike), they probably wouldn't have been able to afford to erect a marquee, let alone the wonderful venues London has.

  11. @Maybe It's Because.... (and others): don't get me wrong, I never said the London games were 'going to be a bit shit'--that was Al Murray. I was just quoting him.

  12. Be hugely relieved that you are not here in New Zealand. The Rugby World Cup champs (YAWN) will be here soon. We are not allowed to forget it - bad luck for the NZ rugby union that heaps here are almost as apathetic as me about it all.

    I plan to hibernate during the 48 (48!) rugby matches, just hoping my cat will comply with all the sleeping.

    My London based sister has talked of visiting us during the 2012 Olympics, and I don't blame her in the least....

    from my Rugby Union free home, Michelle in Wellington, NZ.

    (I do like cricket - it is very knitting friendly!!)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.