I am hoping this title will allow me to stay free of the clutches of the LOCOG brand police, but this will be a post about the orgy of sport (and pseudo-sport) about to engulf London.
This evening we will have the Opening Ceremony, though this seems slightly tardy as the sporting events started a couple of days ago. Oddly, these events, which form part of the London Olympics, have been held in places as far afield as Cardiff and Glasgow – the latter being almost 350 miles from London. I think that even Ryanair would be a little embarrassed to land in Glasgow and claim it was a London airport – or perhaps not, “Welcome to London Prestwick”, anybody? Forget building new airport capacity in the Thames estuary or expanding Heathrow, let’s build the new London airport in South Ayrshire!
I had thought that hiding out in South Cambs, I would be relatively unaffected by the “games”, but it seems not. Strange foreign and retired buses have been sighted around Cambridge this week – visitors from Lincoln, Northampton and the scrap-yard – and I had vaguely wondered why: there had been no obvious increase in service frequency that would require extra vehicles. My local free paper explained the reason: our nice new buses have been taken to ferry athletes around “London” – though if they were real athletes they’d make their own way (though I will accept it is quite a long walk/bike ride/swim to Glasgow). Surely, athletes (and officials) cycling (or walking) along the special Olympic Lanes around London would be a much more inspiring sight than seeing them imprisoned within buses or limos? Would this not provide a stronger message leading to a long-term boost to the nation’s fitness and cleaner air through reduced car usage? Let’s keep the Olympic lanes, but allocate them to human-powered modes of transport!
However, the final straw came earlier in the week when I bought my copy of the Mortician’s Gazette (aka The Radio Times) – still the only listings magazine which gives any degree of coverage of he radio. The price had increased by more than 40% – not because it was listing any more television or radio, in fact, in many ways rather less as several channels are showing nothing but the extended sportsday – but presumably to fund the unwanted Olympic supplement. Surely, as little more than extra advertising, this should have reduced the cost of the publication rather than increasing it?
My own protest is limited to refusing to buy anything from any company sponsoring the games – not much of an imposition as I would be avoiding the vast majority of the corporations involved regardless of their sport-bothering commercial activities due to more quotidian issues with the products or ethics. However, in conjunction with a refusal to buy bottled water (we have perfectly good di-hydrogen monoxide available from the tap) or any liquid which claims to provide some health benefit, this did make it rather tricky to acquire a cold (non-alcoholic) drink on Tuesday night to refresh me after a rather warm ride into Cambridge to see an excellent concert structured around Paganini’s time in the UK. Some days, I do wonder if I suffer from a form of OCD…
Still, I wouldn’t like to leave you with the impression that the Olympics have brought nothing positive to the country. As an all too regular visitor to Woking, I had almost grown inured to the quality of the roads in that Surrey town: roads that most developing nations would be embarrassed to host, roads so poor that the speed bumps provide the smoothest portion of any driven or cycled journey. Well, some sort of sporting endeavour is taking place in the environs of Woking, and the good burghers of that town were concerned that the world-at-large would seem their secret shame were there to be any helicopter coverage – and so, by the last time I visited many of the worst offenders had been miraculously re-surfaced. £15 billion well spent. (OK, perhaps they could have re-surfaced the roads slightly more cheaply – but it’s the thought that counts!).