Saturday, 21 July 2012

We won't See It's Like Again

OK, so a week away from the Olympics.

Normally, I would be looking forward to it unreservedly, but if you live and work in London, you are in no doubt that this event is being put on AT OUR EXPENSE.  Granted, assorted poison manufacturers (be they so-called edibles, nuclear power junkie energy suppliers or out in the open toxic chemical vendors) and sweat shop exploiters are "sponsoring" the games, the vast majority of the funding is via our taxes.

More than a week to go and there was evidence the transport system had the clear potential for meltdown.  I am lucky in that my journey between home and work can be by suburban overground or tube.  I suspect that for the foreseeable future I will have to rely on the latter.  My two journeys by tube this week had me witnessing three near miss accidents involving tourists unable to work out what the direction signs pointed to, overly large trolley cases and packed escalators.  We've had weeks of patronising messages asking us not to expect to be able to use the transport system that as season ticket holders we've paid up front for, but to walk to work.  Yeah - 12 miles up and down hill, and be fit and well enough to put in a day's work?

Oh - and all the security guards at Kings Cross station have been transferred to Stratford.  Retailers are already resigned to a shoplifting epidemic over the next few weeks.

And word has gone round work that we're expected to arrive on time, or early, not take any leave (unless already approved, like the month my manager has taken), and not be sick without a certificate - even for half a day.

Yet authorities chastise anyone who shows anything other than blind enthusiasm.

Ho bleedin' hum.

I have no doubt it will be a great sporting event, and that there will be phenomenal performances, but how it will follow what has come to pass this weekend is questionable.  Bradley Wiggins - avowedly clean triple Olympic champion cyclist and mod.  And now winner of the Tour de France.  To have held the yellow jersey for so long takes an unimaginable mix of strength, stamina, speed and tenacity takes some doing.  To put it in perspective - Howard cycles a ridiculous distance to work each day, but the total for the week is the same as the distance of most daily stages.  No, Wiggins deserves the plaudits.  One definition of being a mod is "Clean living in difficult circumstances".  What more needs to be said?

Although it didn't impinge on my life to such an extent, I felt underwhelmed by Jubilee fever too.  I started to weekend by doing exactly what the Queen did.  Though I watched the Derby in the comfort of my room, dressed in my gardening gear as opposed to being at Epsom all dressed up.  The weather, of course, played its part on putting a damper on the mood, and the one thing I looked forward to - the flypast - was cancelled due to low cloud.  That said, we did have a mad dash round North London and Hertfordshire, trying to see the Jubilee Beacons.  Not a flicker.  In 1977, I was able to see the Harrow-on-the-Hill beacon from the front of our house, and the Windsor Castle beacon was an orange dot in the distance from the back window.  I felt let down.

I confess to buying one Jubilee souvenir - a tasteful shortbread tin from Marks & Spencers.  But then I like biscuits, and it was made sense to have something better than half a packet rattling round the desk draw.

Of course later in June was a royal event I had more time for - Ascot week.  Some great racing, but the fireworks of the last day - the arrival of the unbeaten Australian sprinter Black Caviar - were more of a flicker than an explosion.  Whether she did perform well despite injury, or she is in fact just on a par with some good European horses, we will never know.  But in all honesty, the search for the highlight of the week was over before it had really started.  Frankel - superb as ever, took the first race by a distance, and everything else was the aftermath.

Next Friday is my birthday.  It is also the opening ceremony.  I may watch some of it, we may drive up to the Ridgeway to see the fireworks, I'll see what mood I'm in on the day.  On Wednesday, the torch relay passes nearby, curtailing both bus routes I need to get home, so I've booked a half day rather than get stranded at a crowded bus stand the wrong side of a roadblock.

I do feel I should be swept up in a wave of enthusiasm, because the Jubilee and Olympics are unlikely to happen again in my lifetime.  But as Howard often says, there a few things more depressing than "organised" fun.  Am I the only one who feels imposed upon?

That said, yes, I look forward to some great sport.  I hope I can celebrate medals for the likes of Wiggins, Greene, Murray, Tweddle and the British Dressage team.  I hope a few arrogant bubbles get burst, and hope above hope that a certain elected buffoon of a mayor is forced to keep a low profile and not embarrass the city I live in more than absolutely necessary.