I want to make it quite clear that I am not a patriot. I don’t feel that surge of pride when I order chips abroad, loudly and in English. I don’t approach groups of American tourists, defiantly talking about “water bottles” in received diction. And I can only think of two occasions when I’ve sipped tea with a protruding pinkie.
But, despite myself, at the mention of the London 2012 Olympics I feel a desperate urge to wrap myself in a Union Jack and catch the first double-decker bus down to Buckingham Palace. And no, it’s not because that’s where they’re hosting the women’s beach volleyball. It’s because I can’t ruddy wait to have the second greatest four-yearly sporting event in the world (the football world cup would never need CGI footprint-shaped fireworks to make people watch it) in our very own Blighty – and watch us balls the whole thing up with consummate mastery.
Just the build up to the games has revealed the spectacular capacity of Great Britain for lukewarm achievement. Take the Olympic Stadium. It has been charitably described as a “bowl of blancmange” by some. And it’s not even a big bowl. In fact, with a capacity of 80,000, it’s smaller than just about every college (American) football ground.
OK, fine. So our Games won’t be as ostentatious as Beijing ’08. But who wants ostentation anyway, in times like these? No, what we want is efficiency. An understated games that goes off without a hitch. Obviously it was with this in mind that some genius came up with the idea of giving athletes free use of London’s public transport. Usain Bolt is very quick, but not even he will be able to win the 100 metres when he’s stuck at Tower Hill because of signal failure on the District Line. In fact, transportational issues are so high on the list of potential fuck-ups, that the Games’s organising committee has already resigned itself to mitigating the disaster, rather than averting it. Thus, they have made early efforts to recast the inevitable gridlock on London’s roads in a more glamorous light, anticipating a “perfect traffic storm” for the summer of 2012.
Look out world.