Let them eat cake
The Olympic torch relay continues, and I can't help but be impressed by the moving stories, personal triumphs and tragedies that have been highlighted as it moves over the country. It's clearly given a lot of enjoyment to many people.
But it also feels to me like a sop. The Olympic events themselves are out of reach of most of us - a strange ticketing system for public tickets frustrated many, whilst the corporate influence on the games has meant that large tranches of the crowds are decided by, ironically, many institutions we the general public have had to pay billions to support. Let's just consider that for a moment - we pay massively for the Olympics, and then pay to prop up companies that have tickets that stop us going to the games.
The news yesterday and today that the firm contracted to provide the security personnel can't manage that task - bless them, they've had hardly any notice to recruit and train people, have they? - adds to frustration. Cyclists are banned from Olympic lanes; border controls at airports are understaffed; the main motorway into London from that provincial airport called Heathrow is not serviceable; public disengagement with the games is not surprising.
And with many of these things predictable, the organisers give us our sop - "you can't get tickets, and of you can you can't get there - so watch a torch being jogged around the country, why don't you". It seems to me to be a blatant approach to try to give us something so we're not angry about the sell-out of this event to corporate greed and incompetence. Cynical public manipulation.
But - and this is the key - we do have our Olympics. The torch relay is far more about the Olympic ideals and spirit than the games is. It's about participation - not winning. It's about amateurs triumphing, not overpaid pros preening. For sure, it misses the competitive element (unless you count tackling boisterous members of the public and boys on bicycles and notching your security baton accordingly) but it has engaged the public, highlighted triumph and disaster, and given us a spectacle that we can all enjoy. Well done, the British public, for being true Olympians. Poor show, IOC.