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-