Thursday, December 31, 2009

On your marks for a village Olympics.(Features).

Originally uploaded by scousermartin
While watching the absolutely breathtaking New Year's Eve firework display in London I finally formed an opinion on the question of Britain hosting the Olympic Games.

I should explain at the outset that I don't much like athletics. Running is fine when you are late for a train, or when you are nine, but the concept of running in a circle for nothing but glory seems a bit medieval if you ask me.

Speaking of which; the javelin. In the olden days when men ate bison and Mr Smith had not yet met Mr Wesson, I should imagine that a chap with an ability to chuck a spear over a great distance would end up with many wives. But now, I don't really get off on watching a gigantic Pole lobbing a stick.

It's the same with the hammer. When some enormous Uzbek hurls it into row G of the stadium's upper circle, do we think he is the best hammer thrower in the world? Or the best hammer thrower among those who've dedicated the past four years of their lives to throwing hammers? With the best will in the world, that's not a terribly big accolade.

No matter. The Olympic Games are like Richard and Judy. Whether you like them or not, they exist and they are popular. The question that's been vexing me these past few months is whether I should be pleased they're coming to London.

I think Lord Sir Pope Archbishop Earl Duke King Seb Coe should be richly rewarded for having secured a British win. He was employed to beat the French and by wearing a beige suit and talking about multi-ethnicity he did just that. Good on him.

Now, though, the staging of the event will be handed over to those who built the dome, run the National Health Service, operate Britain's asylum system, manage the roads, set up the Child Support Agency, invaded Iraq, guard Britain's European Union rebate and protect the nation's foxes.

So if we spool forward to the summer of 2012, to the opening ceremony of the London Games, what are we likely to find? A perfect ethnic blend of London schoolchildren prancing about in the nearly finished stadium wearing hard hats and protective goggles lest they are exposed in some way to the Olympic flame. But no swimming pool because health and safety thought it was a "drowning hazard".

That's then, though. What's worrying me most of all are the next six years as we struggle under the global spotlight to get the infrastructure built.

To me, good design and cost are the only considerations. But I'm not in charge, health and safety will be. And they're going to spend every waking moment fighting with those who want all the seating to face east, to keep the Muslims happy, those who have found a rare slug in Newham and would prefer the village to be built elsewhere and those who want all the electricity to come from the wind and the waves, because of global bloody warming.

All Olympic Games since Los Angeles in 1984 have either made a profit or broken even. But I bet Britain shatters that record. Because unlike the Americans and the Australians, and especially the Greeks, we're obsessed with save the whale, feed the poor, green ideology. And we've got it into our heads that even on a construction site no one need ever be injured.

And if people are prepared to waste our money on hi-vi jackets and organic prayer mats, then think how much they'll be prepared to waste quenching the greed of those who live and work on the proposed site.

Already I've heard businessmen say the compensation they're being offered to move their hopeless company somewhere else is nowhere near enough. They can smell the money and know that all that stands between them and a retirement home in Spain is a bunch of woolly-headed liberals who couldn't balance the books at a village tombola.

So, what's to be done to avoid this cataclysmically expensive fiasco? Well, we could hand the whole job over to the French. Or the army. But since, on balance, I want the Olympics to come here, how's this for a plan? We take the Olympics back to its roots and host the whole thing at my kids' school. No, really, I was walking across the playing fields the other day and found myself wondering what more the Olympic bods might need.

At the annual school sports day they can simultaneously stage six sprint races, four games of hockey and several swimming events in the full-sized pool. There's even a nearby river for Matthew Pinsent. Work needed to make this an Olympic venue would involve nothing more than an enlargement of the long-jump sandpits. And I know a local builder who could do that, with no danger to his workforce, and no impact on global warming, for about Pounds 250.

I'm not really kidding here. If you log onto Google Earth, you will find that despite the best efforts of John Prescott to build houses on every school sports pitch in the land, the southeast of England is still littered with a mass of sports facilities. There are enough swimming pools in Surrey alone to keep Mark Spitz going for 40 years.

This then is my vision: not to host the safest, least offensive, most globally cooling Games of all time. But the smallest. And then we could spend the savings we make -about Pounds 5 billion -on the most important part of the Olympic ceremony. The fireworks.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 2006

Source Citation
"On your marks for a village Olympics." Sunday Times [London, England] 8 Jan. 2006: 4. Academic OneFile. Web. 31 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:CJ140629402

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