Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Looking back, there was a moment right at the start when the coalition government could have asserted its authority, and changed the political weather. As soon as they took office, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne should have said, quite truly, that they were dealing with the catastrophic economic inheritance of the previous government, that austerity was the order of the day, and that a symbolic start would be made with the coming London Olympics. These would be drastically reduced in size and scale, with some venues scrapped, and 'nonevents' ejected altogether. Synchronised swimming isn't sport, it's kitsch, and beach volleyball is simply soft porn:

the only 'sport' whose rules specify the maximum size of costumes, to ensure the babes wear itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis.

The monstrous 2006 Act should have been repealed to ensure no totalitarian persecution of anyone selling products with the words '2012', 'Gold' and 'London'. Above all there would be no Zil lanes or privileges of any kind for sponsors and the scoundrels of the International Olympics Committee.

Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and the IOC should have been told to like it or lump it:

they could scarcely have found another city at two years' notice. It would have transformed the government's standing.

As it was, our new rulers capitulated to the Olympics lobby as abjectly as their predecessors, and now London braces itself for the ordeal. I give heartfelt thanks that I no longer live there, many Londoners I know are leaving town for the duration, and those who remain can hear the eerily echoing voice of Big Brother, I mean the Mayor, ordering them not to use the Underground. All it needs now is for an aircraft to stray off course through innocent navigational error, to be shot down by ground-to-air missiles, and strew debris from Crouch End to Clerkenwell. And still, so far from showing any awareness of public revulsion at this hysteria, megalomania and sheer abominable inconvenience, the Prime M inister and the Chancellor snigger about how much they're looking forward to ogling the beach volleyball babes. We'd hoped for a Ministry of All the Talents; we seem to have got a Ministry of All the Dirty Old Men.

This is written by someone who retains an intense schoolboy love of games. It's a very long time since I was a useful tighthead prop, and a rather less enthusiastic oarsmen (I sympathised with Osbert Lancaster, who said, after a day on the river at Oxford, that he understood why in civilised societies rowing had been confined to the criminal classes), and my only real participation sport now is skiing. …

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