I love the Olympics but....
Many people may not take me for the typical straight male sport addict, a victim of Chomsky's manufactured consent adage. I either exude an air of self righteous piety or in some way fit people's preconceptions such that many assume I'm a vegan, earth lover with no vices. Alas this is of course not the case. One of my many vices is an addiction to sport that goes back to childhood. FA Cup Finals, World Cup football, Test Match cricket and the Olympics were great summer milestones throughout my early years in suburban Ilford. So I have to confess I have been consuming London 2012 tv like, well, an addict.
There are a lot of contradictions here so I'm going to attempt to untangle a few. I'll leave it to the silent majority of sport haters, those who cannot understand the absurdity of most sport, to speak for themselves. I dare say the London Games are driving them mad. Or perhaps they are just enjoying themselves doing something more productive than watching other people exercise.
Now I'm not seeking to spoil the party. As I said I'm an addict and I get genuine pleasure from watching Usain Bolt win the 100m final with the second fastest sprint in human history. The fact he does it with such comparative ease and is a very likeable hero helps. The Virgin Media adverts are a minor detraction. He revels in being a clown as well as the worlds greatest ever sprinter. Even worse I'm in love with Jess Ennis. Pathetic I know. Victim not only of sport but also media celebrity soft porn propaganda. And she advertised BP! Still you (well I) can't help loving her diminutive combination of power, speed and beauty. I almost cried when she stormed past everyone to win her 800m and take Gold. Both Ennis and Bolt are worthy of admiration as are many other impressive athletes who dedicate their lives to their sporting achievement.
But of course there are buts. The London Olympics is a great party. But its a party with many contradictions. First it cost £11bn. That's a lot of cash for any party, and at a time of pay freezes for nurses, etc., benefit & public sector pension cuts, carnage in the NHS, etc. it is more than a little profligate. It's also five times what we were told it would be when the bid was made (£2.35bn). Yes there are fringe feel good factor and inspirational side effects but they have their very real limits. Kids may be inspired but what exactly are we selling them? Already millions of boys grow up dreaming of football celebrity stardom only to realise its an unachievable, fantasy available to only 0.0001%. Yes a few sporting heroes are genuine role models (precious few footballers amongst them) but faced with the kinds of barriers most inner city kids are looking at Olympic dreams are more false hope and propaganda. Besides after an £11bn party there's nothing left in the pot for grassroots sport. Most national centres of excellence are facing cut backs, more prosaic local facilities are in perilous financial risk. Legacy is limited, if not completely absent. And the consequence of creating those false hopes is anger and despair aged 6 or 8, by the millions.
Of course anyone wanting to go out and play rugby or football on East Marsh will have to wait 3 years for it to be returned to grass from its current function as an Olympic car park. Leyton Marsh remains the focus of a liberation campaign, it having been illegally stolen for a 'temporary' superstar basketball training facility. Campaigners face vicious criminalisation to keep them silent during the party.
The point is London 2012 is a great party if you can afford it and if you are allowed in. The absurdity of the contradictions broke new ground yesterday with the anniversary of the 2011 riots. Lightweight media spinsters and banal commentators sought to contrast the two events with idiotic references to the games as 'London finest hour'. The truth they were all desperate to hide, indeed most completely failed to understand, is that the two events are representative of a divided city and a divided nation. Yes, if you consent, and if you can afford it, you might be allowed into the party. But the poor, the excluded, the underclass are decidedly unwelcome. The dozens of police vans blazing around Hackney and Tottenham yesterday evening were there to enforce the exclusion. You party on State terms or not at all.
And whilst some Olympic sports are relatively accessible others are elitist in their very essence. The spectacle of watching a Nigeria rower laughed at by privileged, white commentators at Eton was pretty nauseating. The attempt to spin his 'inclusion' as evidence of accessibility may have worked on the more gullible and ignorant but racist Olympic tokenism remains pretty crude.
The contradictions are not unique to the Olympics. It is after all just another prism or sideshow in the carnage of late capitalist decline. The big party is over, long over. We are just living through the hangover because those in power refuse to face reality, or rather insist on retaining power. It is the Assad, Gadafy, Mubarak syndrome and New World Order western elites are equally culpable.
It is hard to navigate the insanity. The political landscape is so distorted and strewn with mediated distractions. As I said I'm really not out to spoil the party. Take what comfort you can from the medal tables and performances if that's is, like me, what floats your boat. But do not be conned into thinking this is reality or any relation to it. In a sane world we could all marvel at human endeavour and capacity. We could even challenge our prejudices and fear about disability. But this is an insane world where MacDonalds and Coca Cola dictate the terms. Your kids can dream of great athleticism but they must eat and drink corporate poison. The trick is to retain your critical faculties, however painful that may be. By all means escape to the dream world for a while but everyone's future depends on us breaking out of the bubble and creating something very different.
BELOW - a few of the trees felled for the London Olympics venues
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