WHY I'M GLAD THE OLYMPICS ARE OVER
NATIONAL PRIDE IS RUNNING HIGH on the wave of twenty-nine Olympic gold medals won by Team GB, our best since London hosted the Olympics in 1904. A wonderful victory indeed. […]
NATIONAL PRIDE IS RUNNING HIGH on the wave of twenty-nine Olympic gold medals won by Team GB, our best since London hosted the Olympics in 1904. A wonderful victory indeed.
But the people who have decided not to revel in the record times or toss themselves off over Tom Daley have faced immediate and vehement interrogation: why aren’t you joining in the spirit of the Olympic Games? Why are you a boorish scrooge trying to ruin Britain’s Olympic glory? And how on great bloody Earth could you have missed women’s volleyball?
I am one of those scrooges, and I have come to defend all the other Olympic scrooges from the rabid Olympophiles that have suddenly popped up all over the country.
I won’t deny that London 2012 has been a spectacle. It has. Even Kim Gavin’s lacklustre closing celebrity jamboree had an air of grandeur and national pride about it, though I had a heart attack when I realised Jessie J – pop manufacturer extraordinaire – was about to ruin We Will Rock You to the tune of guitar legend Brian May selling the hell out.
Nor will I say that Team GB hasn’t outdone itself. Of course it has.
But the Tories have made out that the Olympic Games have come to save us from our two-tier society to the tune of our £162 million School Sports Partnerships programme being cut to £9 million in 2013.
That is a huge sum of money. As Phillip Collins wrote in The Times, “This is not a policy compatible with the Prime Minister’s stated desire to have a mass sporting legacy from London 2012.”
The honour of competing for Team GB still fell to privately educated competitors by just under a third. It’s better than the Beijing Olympics where half of the team were privately educated, but it’s still not a great representation of our mostly state schooled society.
So what? Should it matter who represents us as long as they bring in the gold medals?
Of course it matters. We want our team to not just represent our country but be representative of it. Football is much better at this sort of thing, where exactly seven percent of footballers come from privileged backgrounds. That is a fair representation of our society as it stands.
Tennis is one of the worst: if your parents can’t afford to train you before you’ve hit double digits, you are going nowhere in the tennis world.
I do wonder how kids are supposed to learn about ambition, teamwork and competition from the Olympics when school sport funding is so badly dented. It never helped that the programme Labour introduced was abused by red tape thereon.
OK, I get it, you say. But nothing’s perfect. Why should that stop you watching the competitors?
It’s simple: I would never dream of stopping anyone else from enjoying the Games, but I myself could not cast away my miserable veil of scepticism for long.
I tire of the pomposity and the entitlement. Of the politicians bagging it as an event to magically change the condition of school sports and the state of the UK economy – an economy that is standing dangerously on the edge of a double dip recession. It spoils the whole thing for me.
The relentless jovial and optimistic commentary from the British media has overshadowed one simple question: what has London 2012 really done for us?
Sir Mervin King has issued a prescient warning to the government, one that should hit home hard during the government’s Olympic hangover: the national happiness is not here to stay. Our economy still lies on fragile ice and the afterglow of the Olympics will not last for long.
The government inevitably used the Olympics as a handy diversion from this worrying news, as well as from Lords reform, a huge part of the Lib Dem manifesto that was hastily swept under the carpet while everyone’s gaze was probably on Hope Solo’s arse.
I have of course neglected to talk about the countless volunteers that helped out at the Games.
The communal spirit was wonderful, if unfortunately short lived now the games are over. I was heartened by the mostly volunteer-led tribute to the NHS, but even this seemed contrived.
While our government paid out thousands of pounds to have the footwork behind the tribute funded, 50,000 NHS staff including doctors, nurses and managerial positions will be cut by 2015.
I know, I know, we’re all in this together, apparently. And I would never say the Olympics have done nothing for our country: that would almost be slanderous. It has brought many people together that otherwise wouldn’t have, and has given those who chose to watch, attend and participate a chorus of respite against the misery of 9 to 5.
I just still find it hard to see what overall good the Olympics have done for us when I look at the state of the rest of our country, and of the forgotten kids that lurk in the darkest corners of London while the streets were cleaned and the landmarks got an artistic makeover.
Like Lords reform, last year’s nationwide riots have been hidden away in the closet like a bad but distant memory. The Olympics have done nothing but temporarily blind us to the problems seemingly endemic in British society. Perhaps time will tell if I’m wrong.
“This is for everyone,” eh? Bah, humbug.