Following a flurry of Tweets from me that reasonably accurately communicated the froth I was in over the Olympics, I got a message back from a genuine Paralympic hero:
@Marc_Woods There is so much that the media or politicians don’t talk about because it’s not gloomy enough or doesn’t win votes
Marc is of course right: carping about the mismanagement of the Olympics and Paralympics is to deny the work and achievements of a generation of sportspeople, some unknown today but who will, come September, doubtless be household names. Perhaps I’m just British and so unused to enthusiasm, but I was properly pleased when we won the bid, I have met and know athletes who have conveyed what the Olympics mean to them, and yes, I have sat next to Seb Coe on an aeroplane and said: ‘These Olympics… They are going to be fantastic aren’t they?’
Today, Marc and I are on opposite sides of a thin but impermeable membrane separating those in the bubble from those of us outside it. I know that this summer of sport means a lot to many people and will represent the pinnacle of achievement to many of the participants. I can’t shift the feeling, however, that these games are going to enter the history books for the wrong reasons. There have been dozens of stories from the estate agent receiving a heavy-handed lawyer’s letter telling him to remove five coloured hula hoops from his shop window, to unfair ticket allocations, and migrant workers being classed as ‘British’ by the cunning, and apparently complicit, strategy of listing their B&B as their residence. I’ve been booted out of Central London for the summer (unless I pay for the privilege – though what this money is for, I’m not sure), my mum’s been told not to stitch the words ‘Olympics’ or ‘London 2012’ or the Olympic rings into a quilt she’s made for a visiting athlete, and the event has managed to rub an awful lot of people up the wrong way.
I stand by my assessment that it looks like a party for wealthy people in the middle of a lot of poor people. Wealthy people, such as those who can afford a £45 ticket to travel by boat from Limehouse to Stratford – if you don’t find this staggering, look at the distance on Googlemaps. Poor people such as Stratford’s teenagers, who don’t have the jobs and apprenticeships promised in the bid. Wealthy people like the sponsors. Poor people like the taxpayers. Every election, we hear hand wringing from politicians about voter apathy. Place yourself in the looted sneakers of a Stratford rioter: no job, no training, higher education too expensive. Are they supposed to vote for Labour, who introduced tuition fees in the first place? Or the Conservatives who ramped up the prices?
Are they supposed to respect their places of education? Look at the ratio of state : privately educated people in the cabinet. Or competing in the Olympics for that matter. Count the proportion of ministers who are so confident in state education they believe it good enough for their own children.
Are they supposed to respect the workplace? This is where you go every day to earn money to pay tax – often more tax than the company you’re working for pays, and possibly more than the boss pays, because he values his accountants more than you.
Are they supposed to respect the church? This is an organisation that held shares in News International, would rather explode than let a woman wear a stupid hat and throws its toys out of the pram when someone has the temerity to suggest that if they want to have a say in making laws, perhaps they should get permission from the electorate like normal people do.
Are they supposed to respect newspapers that tap phones and pay off policemen? TV shows that create villains and heroes and remind us that hard work and talent are nice but twins with vertical hair are where the money’s at? Footballers who claim that shouting the words ‘F*cking black c*nt’ at a black man isn’t racist? A justice system that puts people in prison for breaking windows but is apparently powerless to act against the people who broke the economy?
Here, with grinding inevitability, are some stories that will be in the paper between now and September. I call this game Official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Bingo.
An athlete upsets a sponsor.
A foreign visitor gets beaten up by a gang in east London.
Rain interferes with opening ceremony, closing ceremony, and major events in between.
An elderly/disabled person is humiliated and strip searched because they have brought a bottle of water to the Olympic Park.
David Cameron returns prematurely from holiday.
The death of an ordinary person will be spuriously linked to a celebrity. The celerity’s picture will feature more prominently than the dead person.
A foreign visitor gets tazered by the police.
Cabinet minister linked to Barclays shenanigans.
On a hot August evening, riots and looting.
A major over reaction by anti-terror forces.
Stewards criticised for not knowing where things are, meaning ticket holders miss events.
A large photograph of an empty corporate box.
Cabinet minister linked to tax avoidance.
During the opening ceremony, someone is struck by lightening.
Trust me I am not a negative person, and this reads back as more of a downer than I would like it to be. I might be wrong. I hope I am. I hope I’ve fallen into the trap of wily headline writers and clever politicians. But today I fear that those inside the bubble could find it all go pop just as the eyes of the world are upon us. In a strange way, I understand. It is far easier to build a velodrome than it is to build a fair society. Cheaper, too.