I can’t add much more to the acres that have been written about the Olympics over the last two weeks. Sorry to stick to the party line, but yes I thought it would be awful, a farrago of branding police, cops with guns and transport gridlock, all topped off with two solid weeks of rain. I’d bought tickets, but I was cynical in as much as that I assumed (from 40 years of experience) that Britain’s biggest ever sporting event would magnify all the country’s very worst defects – its mean-spirited obsession with security, its woeful short termism and unerring ability to cock things up.
Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that way. Myself and a friend went down to the Olympic Park, tickets in hands last Monday and like everyone we were flabbergasted at the friendliness and enthusiasm of the volunteers and the good spirit amongst the crowds. In just a week these statements have become cliches. But they still bear repeating, and comparison against what we were expecting on July 26th.
But I also wonder whether it marks another staging post on the way to an era where civic minded communitarian ideals are pre-eminent once more. It feels like something is happening. We’ve had thirty years of rampant neo liberalism rammed down our throats with its concomitant view that sees humanity as nothing more than atomised individuals, all out for whatever we can get. And we’ve seen where that’s got us. If you want to look at a sporting insitution has been bent out of shape by these forces just fix your gaze on the English Premier League. And turn away. In disgust.
Of course, we still have a Tory government in power but the Olympics made Cameron look nervous for a number of reasons. And it wasn’t just the U turn on schools funding, the embarassment over sales of school playing fields or the fantastic NHS tribute in the opening ceremony. The Tories already look like a government that has run out of ideas, whose tired free market mantras currently reside on a cul de sac, on the opposite side of town to where all intellectual, economic and cultural traffic is currently flowing. The answer to where all that traffic is eventually heading is, I suppose, what everyone on the left is waiting for. I suspect that whoever it is that eventually articulates that vision will base it around the values we saw on display during this dream-like fortnight – ordinary people working together towards a common goal, a generosity of spirit and a modest, guilt-free patriotism based on quiet achievement rather than imperial arrogance.
Mind you…the closing ceremony was still rubbish though, wasn’t it?