Just a few weeks ago the Olympic torch arrived in my hometown of Derby. Crowds of thousands, gathered just to see a brief glint of the flame as it passed were told of the ‘historic, momentous occasion’ that they were taking part in. The town square was packed for the first time in years, the biggest park in the city held a concert with ‘global pop star’ Loick Essien (me neither) the star attraction, all was good.
Similar scenes have been and gone through every city or town in the UK, ever since the torch’s arrival back in May, a sign of the effect the Games is having all over the country, not just in the capital. But some say, is that it? 7 years of buildup, billions of government, public money spent, and we get a shoddy concert and a night of celebration? Where’s the money gone, the coaching and facilities, that’ll produce our next batch of Olympians? It’s all a part of the over-hanging question: Does anybody really care about the Olympic Games?
It’s a few weeks of a bunch of B-list sports, that the general public only have an interest in, in the Olympic year, and when we have a Brit to support. I mean, honestly, who actually, avidly follows the sport of Greco-Roman Wrestling? (and yes that is actually a sport at this summer’s Games). Even the most popular of Olympic sports, Swimming and Athletics, don’t have massive television audiences in the UK outside of Olympic year.
It’s the likes of football, tennis, cricket and motorsport that rule the nations viewing habits. A sub-standard England had 20 million viewers in their exit at the Euro’s earlier this summer, whilst just last week, Andy Murray’s defeat in the Wimbledon final, drew in 17 million people. A non-UK held Olympic Games would NEVER see figures like these, never mind if a Team GB member was involved!
Even the various events, back on the torch route, the concerts, are only happening due to the massive conglomerations that are supporting the Games. The likes of Samsung, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, some of the world’s biggest brands, getting popstars to come out to posts all over the country, whilst trying to flog you their products simultaneously. Even the torch bearers, originally meant to be those in the local communities who have applied, or been nominated through their fantastic work helping others, have dissolved into numerous celebrities. Infamously, the popstar will.i.am was told off for tweeting during his leg in Taunton in the West Country, a place I’m sure he never dreamed of stepping foot in.
Reports of the strict guidelines across Olympic venues are starting to come out too, the totalitarian style of only certain water can be consumed on site, the gigantic McDonalds that has been constructed in the Olympic Park. It all reeks of consumerism, a view in distinct contrast of the Olympic ‘morals’ of Friendship, Respect, Excellence, Determination, Inspiration, Courage, Equality. Depressingly, nowadays, it seems to be Money, Money, Money. Even the below logo has been ridiculed,due to the ease of which it can be altered to resemble a particular s-word…
However, there are SOME benefits to be seen from the Games, and them being in the same country as us, even if it doesn’t feel like it. 2012 has been a year dominated by one flag: the Union Jack. What with the Queen’s jubilee, the Euro’s and Andy Murray’s success, it seems like we are proud to be British again. Flags have remained flying ever since the extended bank holiday, and with another sporting feast, events in which we actually have a chance of winning, will see them remain for even longer!
Unlike at the last games in Beijing, London won’t have to worry about filling stadia with volunteers or ‘paid supporters’, as the ticket sales have been strong from day 1. Infact, ironically, one of the few sports selling is football. Many see this as the current tournament is mainly an under-23’s championships, with three over-age players. If the format represented a World Cup, with teams like Brazil, Spain and the newly-reformed team GB present, I’m sure we’d sell out instantly. The fact that the new season of the Premiership is only a month away, may also be a factor towards poor sales.
Then comes the memories from the Games. I’m not talking about seeing the fella who has coached kids for the last 50 years running down your local highstreet with a massive flame, and clapping. No, I’m talking Usain Bolt winning the 100m in the fastest time mankind has ever seen! I remember him winning in Beijing, and not just winning, but winning in style, battering every other athlete around him. It really was amazing. A repeat, and a faster time will see London become a Games etched in everyone’s minds, especially those lucky enough to attend.
As for me, I’m in two minds about the whole event. Yes, in some ways, it has brought communities together, provided entertainment for millions, and we haven’t even begun yet! A successful, entertaining few weeks is what we want, and will most likely get, but at a cost of around £20 billion, is it a price worth paying? The legacy and aftermath of the Games will tell us that for sure, but for now, I’m wary, excited but wary.