Last night I listened to a radio interview with a man who had just got tickets to an Olympics event next year. He had a ticket to watch the qualifying rounds of the Judo competition. He was asked if he was a fan of Judo, to which he replied, no. Then why was he going to spend so much money and time and effort in attending the event. He said that he wanted to tell people that he had, ‘been there.’ He had applied for tickets to watch athletics and cycling but hadn’t been lucky, but had struck gold with the judo. But as he elaborated he revealed that he had been at Live Aid in Wembley Stadium, twenty-five years ago, and that being there had meant so much to him, although he was so far back from the stage he got the sound first from behind him. He had been there on Westminster Bridge the night in 1997 when labour swept into power. He had waved the Arch Royal away from Portsmouth on her way to the Falklands in 1982. Being there obviously matters. And that appears to sum up the Olympics in London.
The Athens Olympics in 2004 cost Greece £10 billion to stage. Stadia, roads, railways, security, light bulbs… And now seven years later as the country stands on the edge of bankruptcy, many of the venues, where the events took place, are derelict and unused. But thinking that the Greeks are going to take up basket ball or Kayak down an open sewer when they’ve got the Aegean is a bit like expecting them to go to work and pay taxes.
As for stopping the venues in London becoming condom paved, once the Olympics are over, is down to making the sports more interesting. And in this country, apart from anything else, once it stops being an Olympic event it just goes back to being like watching five aside football, on a wet Wednesday night, in the local sports hall. No, Seb must be prepared to allow more interesting events. Like the one where they’ve got to chase a motorbike around the streets for an hour, now you can see this has roots in the urban environments where chasing a motorbike might be a matter of life or death. Just as they should herd a flock of sheep out onto the javelin field. If you miss an animal it’s whatever the distance is, if you hit one it’s plus ten yards. Same with the long jump, dig a ravine with wolves at the bottom. Where’s the catapult range? Ten bottles lined up, recycling at its best. And how about making it compulsory to drink three Special Brews before the cycling events?
And now they are trying out the new water they laid off Weymouth for the sailing. Apparently it’s been very well done with just enough choppy to swell mix for exciting racing. But what happens when they switch on the surfing wave machine? How about after so many waves we drop in a Tsunami? Now we’re getting an Olympics that’s about being a little more than just being there.