London Games

by Andrew Stuttaford

The buzz is that tonight’s opening  Olympics  ceremony   may be quite something. I would have preferred a simple ribbon-cutting by the Queen (cost £1) but that’s not the way today. Still, let’s wait to see what Danny Boyle, at his best a genius, has come up with.

Meanwhile over at the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan argues the Olympiskeptic cause:

In a story on its website, the BBC proclaims that “the capital has come alive with the spirit of the Olympics.” Apart from reading like it was copied from a London 2012 press release, it’s just not true.

Small parts of the capital have come alive with the spirit of the Olympics. Crowds turned out today in parts of central London to greet the torch. I passed the South Bank yesterday – and there were, as the BBC journalist says, plenty of people having themselves photographed with the mutant Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville.

But the truth is that across most of the capital, you’d hardly know the Games existed. I cycled to Marlow yesterday – including 20 miles through a very wide cross-section of London – keeping a careful eye out for Olympic bunting and suchlike. Apart from the South Bank, all I saw were some banners on lamp-posts. There were no amateur efforts at all. During the Jubilee, and for weeks afterwards, it seemed like every third or fourth house or shop was decorated in some way. For the Olympics, they just aren’t…

The emperor’s-new-clothes brigade is out in force tonight – the Guardian newspaper, for instance, has excoriated Olympisceptics as “at the margins, out of touch and just plain wrong,” claiming that “87 per cent are to one degree or another up for the festival.” The evidence for this turns out to be a poll which finds that 87 per cent of will watch the Olympics on TV at some point. Given that it will take over the BBC’s main channel, BBC1, almost 24/7 for the next fortnight, it would be hard not to see the Olympics on TV. Alas, the Guardian forgot to report that, according to the same poll, only 26 per cent intend to watch every day and a total of 45 per cent intend to watch only once, twice or not at all. (Interestingly, for all its bullishness, the newspaper’s website front page has a button allowing readers to hide all Olympic coverage – perhaps a sign that they’re not quite as confident as they claim?)

Well, as a general principle, anything that the BBC and the Guardian are for

In any argument, getting called names is always the clearest possible sign that your opponents have no real facts to back up their case. The facts are simple enough to establish. Go into the streets, look around and tell me whether this is a city and a country alive with the spirit of the Games.

Time will tell, although the sporting contests themselves will, of course, conjure up their own thrills (if you like that sort of thing: with the tug-of-war gone, the final of the 100 meters  will be enough for me, and that helpful Usain Bolt has a knack of making that a pleasantly brief commitment).

As for Mitt Romney’s comments, well the facts are one thing (see Brother Geraghty here) but good manners are another. It’s never good form to suggest that your hosts don’t know what they are doing, Governor. Annoyingly, if anything was guaranteed to rally somewhat dubious Brits behind the wretched Olympics ™ it was criticism by a foreigner, even an Anglo-Saxon one, as London’s Conservative (and shrewdly populist) mayor, Boris Johnson, quickly realized. Check out his speech to a cheering crowd here.

Not a great moment for the Romney campaign, but, to take a longer view, the enthusiasm with which the mayor was received should worry the stumblebum David Cameron quite a bit more.

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