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Monday, August 25, 2008

Who is holding a torch for who?

I have to admit that I am bored with the Olympics closing ceremony and the arguments over that London bus, the video, David Beckham's kick and the brolly brigade. Marina Hyde sums up the 'Beijing is going to kick London's butt' argument brilliantly in today's Guardian but somehow I cannot bring myself to really care, no matter how good the prose:

At times during this ceremony it felt as if London would have to prise the Olympic torch from China's cold, dead hands. Come to that, at no point in either the opening or the closing ceremonies would it have seemed particularly surprising if the floor of the stadium had opened and a vast superweapon had risen up, reminding all present that the Bird's Nest is basically the Death Star with a better percussion section.

The closing ceremony offered Beijing another chance to make Cirque du Soleil look like a barn dance. Your outgoing Olympic host city last night reiterated that they have more excellent drummers than other countries have people. They paraded more orthodontically screened children. They gave their euphorically shell-shocked audience a flavour of the kind of entertainment that might be on offer were Ernst Blofeld to retain the services of Busby Berkeley.

It just seems so far away, both in time and in distance. Many of us already feel as if London has sucked all the money and good-will that is available from the rest of the UK so as to put on their own inadequate extravaganza in 2012, leaving us with just a few crumbs. Now they want us to give more so as to match the Communist propaganda showpiece we have just witnessed.

There is only so much blood in this stone. It is easy to sit at a computer and pontificate about how London is going to look rubbish by comparison unless more money is found. Any old expert can stand in front of a camera and demand more money for elite sports and the grassroots as well, and nobody is the least bit surprised that the Architects want things to be grander and more imaginative, which will enable them to command bigger fees.

Somebody has to pay for all this and it is the taxpayer who will pick up the bill. Yet it is that same taxpayer who is having to contend with rising fuel and food bills, who has seen huge wads of his and her money go to bail out a private sector bank because of the government's incompetence and who still has to contend with underfunded public services whilst Ministers throw money at new weapons' systems and the consequences of an illegal war.

There has to be a balance and blowing an even bigger chunk of the nation's wealth on two weeks of self-gratification in 2012 tips the scale the wrong way. The next Olympics have a budget, they must stick to it and do their best with the resources they have no matter what the journalists, commentators and experts say.

We may all be proud of our boys and girls, their 19 golds, 13 silvers and 15 bronze medals but we will soon move onto another piece of escapism. In the meantime it is back to reality and that must include having a government focussed on sorting out our economic problems rather than trying to prolong the glorious distraction from their shortcomings the Olympics provided.
I agree. The government does not have to go over the top. The most important thing is a safe, welcoming environment for the people of the world to witness the olympics. London itself is one of (if not the) greatest city on the planet so much of the marketing for the olympics is already in place.
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