LON­DON OLYMPICS

India Today - - NA TION -

Bonkers, in­ter­spersed with a Pun­jabi song by A. R. Rah­man.

Yes, the ex­pense of the Olympics is ex­tor­tion­ate. It was foisted on us with­out any con­sul­ta­tion. Then again, we never chose to fight Hitler ei­ther. But when he brought his bombs to Lon­don, the world saw what met­tle and love for life we have. And now that the Olympics are here up and run­ning, we’re be­hind it as if we have mort­gaged our homes to bet on ev­ery race, leap, toss and flip that’s part of this whole she­bang.

My friend Fleur Emery, a dy­namic busi­ness­woman, be­tween cut­ting deals and chas­ing money, is shar­ing ev­ery de­tail of the women’s div­ing con­test on Face­book. “Thanks to the BBC,” she’s de­clared, “I now know ex­actly how to do a flunge.” Yes­ter­day, her ob­ses­sion was with women’s cy­cling and now, via Face­book, her friends can also dis­cuss the mer­its of a well- ex­e­cuted pelo­ton ( it’s a hud­dle of riders in team cy­cling), as if we had been life­long en­thu­si­asts. She’s not the only one. The wheels of global cap­i­tal­ism are turn­ing slower for these two weeks as Lon­don’s work­ers and en­trepreneurs are skip­ping morn­ings, even days, off work to par­take of such sport­ing acana as men’s team archery and women’s pow­er­lift­ing.

But while we may be skiv­ing off, the mer­chants of west Lon­don are reel­ing with joy as af­flu­ent, mid­dle- aged tourists from across the world are heav­ing in to shop any piece of ridicu­lously over­priced tat that a Chi­nese sweat­shop can pro­duce. But it’s sold in Bri­tain, and has the Union Jack em­bla­zoned on it, so shall more than suf­fice as an ‘ authen­tic’ me­mento of a won­der­ful Olympics.

These shop­pers could not have come at a bet­ter time. The Chan­cel­lor, Ge­orge Os­borne, must have been fin­ger­ing his phial of cyanide when lat­est fig­ures showed that Bri­tain’s re­ces­sion is ac­tu­ally three times worse than had been pre­dicted. But the sav­ings of the global mid­dle classes are cur­rently flood­ing here for a fort­night, so he can breathe easy for a week or two at least. What greater re­spect could be paid to the cop­u­la­tion of sport and cap­i­tal­ism, than the fact that McDon­ald’s has in­tro­duced a new uni­form for the Olympics, re­plete with ath­letic hood­ies and tennis col­lars. The world’s fore­most pur­vey­ors of choles­terol, which un­der­pins the obe­sity epi­demic of the West, are the stan­dard bear­ers of hu­man ex­cel­lence.

In this time of re­ces­sion and blamem­o­n­ger­ing, the Olympics is the only thing in Bri­tain that has univer­sal po­lit­i­cal sup­port. The Labour Party un­der Tony Blair won the bid to be­come hosts seven years ago, while the Tories have thrown their weight be­hind it since tak­ing over the gov­ern­ment. It was one of the more ex­quis­ite ironies of the night, that David Cameron had ac­tu­ally raised the bud­get of the open­ing cer­e­mony to £ 27 mil­lion ( Rs 229.50 crore) — only to then see it made into a show­case for Boyle’s left- wing pol­i­tics. But even I raised an eye­brow at the scene of a bu­colic pre- in­dus­trial Eng­land, peo­pled with so many black and brown peo­ple.

The only protests thus far have been to de­cry the empty seats, as var­i­ous fed­er­a­tions failed to use their quo­tas. Lon­don­ers are livid at see­ing gaps in the crowd, af­ter so many had failed to get tick­ets through the labyrinthine of-

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