I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A full on Olympics rant from the ever forgotten North

Well it has to be said that Danny Boyle didn’t half pull one out of the hat on Friday night. I don’t suppose we should be all that surprised: the guy has class. And as a result the country seems have fallen head over heels into a full on Olympic love in. And I don’t suppose we should be all that surprised about that either. So it seems like the right time for an old fashioned Olympic rant from the ever forgotten north.

Legacy! Christ if I hear one more uber earnest jumped up civil servant wittering on about what a super duper legacy the Games will leave for future youth I will put a brick through the tele. Well, I won’t. At least I hope I don’t. Can’t afford to.

I did a sum a couple of years ago when the Olympics tab ran over ten billion. Had we decided to do something to improve the lives of future generations of youngsters that had a tad more legacy about it than a fortnight’s worth of running, jumping, dressaging and beach volleyballing in our beloved capital we might have done this. We could have built a £1 million youth centre for every 10,000 of population. As in five in Dumfries. Seventy in Liverpool. Christ, there would be 800 in London. Pop quiz. Which would leave the greater legacy? Which would be more likely to stop swarms of youngsters hitting the streets of the future to smash up shops and brick lines of policemen?

It seems like the run up to the Olympics and the first couple of days have very effectively showcased all that is utterly shite about 2012 Britain. Time to rant. The BBC! Now let’s get something straight here. I am a monumental fan of the BBC. I don’t begrudge a single penny of the licence fee. The Beeb is there as a bulwark against Murdoch, a place where countless millions all across the planet can tune in for the truth. And yet time after time in the run up to the great event the BBC news would give over time to David bloody Beckham to give his regal views on the coming festivities. David Beckham who has never been an Olympian for so much as a second of his sporting career. David Beckham who has never won so much as a single honour on any world stage. But never mind all that. Saint David is the celeb to end all celebs. And getting David on the news bumps up viewing figures. The thing is guys, this isn’t and never will be news. If you were ITV it would be forgivable. They need adverts or they go bust and sticking Saint David in front of the camera is always what the big advertising boys like McDonalds and Nike demand and crave. But the BBC does not need advertising. You take money off every one of us to ensure that when you do news it is actually news, not pandering to bloody celebrities. Sure the great British public would always prefer a cosy five minutes with Saint David to being told how many toddlers have been blown to bits by high explosive ordinance in the high rise blocks of Alleppo.

Then there was the quiet unbelievable security fiasco. No point trolling all over old ground. I had loads of guys in at the Agency sick as parrots about it. All over Britain there are strapping lads chasing jobs in the full knowledge that they have about a one in fifty chance of getting a result. And then some coiffeured prick on a million year appears before a Select Committee to say he was sorry that they couldn’t manage to recruit anyone to earn a tenner an hour in a nation riddled by unemployment. But was he about to give up his £57 million management fee? Not a chance. And will we pay him? Course we will. Once the dust has settled and the lawyers have done their stuff.

Next it was time for a full on media panic about the airports as the wicked, wicked, wicked unions planned their wicked, wicked strike! My god, those wicked, wicked Muslim types will be swarming in with backpacks filled with Semtex. Come on. Does the media really think that the boys with the long beards living in Pakistani caves will suddenly jump to their feet and punch the air when they tune into the World Service? Come on Abdul, we’re in business here! Load up the bang, bang  and get onto quick. The way is clear! Mark Sewotka has done a Moses job and opened a path. What utter nonsense. If Al Queda have anything in mind they will have been planning it for years. It is what they do. Or try to at least. They’ll already be here and will have been so for a while, probably all their lives. They are not hanging around the Souk on the off chance that Mark Sewotka will call his guys out on strike.

Opening ceremony. And yes, the bits I saw on the news were great. But what did it show? Danny was tasked with showcasing what Britain is all about with a particular emphasis on the Asian market. So what did we say to the Chinamen with all the cash? Once we were rural. Then for a while we did factories. Then we blew the country’s savings on two life or death tussles with the Germans. And even when we were broke we produced the NHS out of the hat. Fair enough. And the bit we can be proud about our Empire history is the fact that we have become genuinely multi-cultural. Fair enough. But what do have now that the rest of the world wants. Once upon a time it was ships and trains and cars and clothes and cutlery. Now it is Mr Bean, Saint David, James Bond and the Queen. The Chinese have all the money and they make all the stuff. We have creative guys and a bunch of celebs. Forget the ship yards and steel mills. We have Saint David. Football, celebs and the Royal Family. The last assets of Great Britain Plc. Christ.

And then we had all those empty seats. Just like at the Cup Final and every other sporting event where the best seats in the house are ear marked for the corporations whilst the fans are kept out, made to queue and overcharged. The Olympics have managed to become the ultimate showcase for the rampant Corporations. We even passed a law through Parliament to ensure that the chip shops of East London can only sell chips with fish. The rest belongs to McDonalds. Like they say, what’s the difference between the Olympics and a primary school? It is against the law to sell McDonalds at a primary school. Coz it’s unhealthy.

And so it seems that the Olympics are completely symbolic of everything we are. The little people are shoved to one side to ballot for tickets and queue to get in and to get ripped blind once they get there. The corporations are given carte blanche to bully any little business they like and leave swathes of empty seats to rub it in. The celebs are pandered to, the politician spout utter crap and Saint David is everywhere.

What a sad joke we have become.      

1 comment:

  1. Hiya Mark, good post. In the interests of full disclosure I work for the BBC (News archive), live in London (although I'm from North Wales) and have just come back from watching the Olympics Women's Road Race (which was amazing). Having said that, I don't disagree with anything you've said here. You've pretty much nailed everything I've been thinking about the Olympics over the past few years. If you add to everything you've said here the fact that a large chunk of my council tax has been going towards this, and I can't get tickets, then we're pretty much on the same page. HOWEVER - the opening ceremony was amazing. Yes it celebrated a bunch of stuff that has been under consistent attacks from successive governments for over 30 years, BUT it did celebrate them, and it do so in front of the whole world. And secondly, despite all the shit that it inevitably comes with, the fact is that about 14,000 people who have trained and worked harder than you or I could imagine are here, in the UK, to simple try their best at something they love.

    There will be major fallout from the empty seats fiasco - maybe it will change the IOC's attitude to Corporate sponsors for next time? Who knows? No, there won't be much of a legacy, there have been some great stories on BBC World recently showing some pretty shocking pics of the facilities built for Athens 2004 that are now crumbling and disused. And yes, the cost of it all is simply unjustifiable. But there is still something above and beyond all that mess, there is some Olympic ideal that exemplifies the best of humanity. I don't think that come from the IOC or their unapologetic fascism when it comes to their "brand", but it does come from thousands of athletes simply trying to do their best at something - the Olympics gives them a global stage to do it on, and gives us the opportunity to watch. It might not be worth the cost, but it's worth something.