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The London Olympics are going to be great, of this there is no doubt. All of us Brits will be glued to our sets, trying to squeeze our patriotic fervor into ever greater gushing outbursts of excitement and glee whenever anyone from Team GB so much as looks at the medal podium.
However, as with all massive and costly parties, there are going to be one or two (or ten) teensy little niggles which may mar the enjoyment of an otherwise perfect event.
Here are some examples, which almost definitely won’t come to pass:
As if having a ton of visitors wasn’t going to clog things up enough, people have to be able to get from one place to another at some speed, if they are to compete, or train competitors, or wave regally from the stands. A special lane has been set up on the M4 motorway, which is only to be used by black cabs and the coaches bringing teams to and from the stadium. The M4, on any normal day, can get quite busy. Very busy, in fact, otherwise that lane wouldn’t be necessary. Let’s hope.
Which brings us nicely to…
It won’t just be the London Underground, buses and taxis that are affected. Rail networks in and out of London will be jam-packed and prone to delays, which is fine if you’re coming in specially for the games, but less delightful if you’re attempting your morning commute. Airports are going to be confusing and tense, with extra security to make sure nothing awful happens. And no one is going to know quite where to go, which will lead to unwary pedestrians suddenly walking into the back groups of people suddenly huddling over maps. Trust me, Londoners get huffy about this stuff at the best of times.
Nothing Else On TV
We’re all creatures of habit, aren’t we? And when we settle down to watch a favorite show – The Simpsons, perhaps, or Coronation Street – only to find it’s not on because there is live footage being shown of the coxless synchronized javeliscus pairs, well let’s just say it’ll get on the nerves of anyone who doesn’t enjoy sport.
Corporate Sponsor Madness Part 1
We’ve already seen a little touch of this, when it emerged that McDonalds had managed to arrange their contract with the organizers so that any vendor selling chips within the Olympic arena would be in breach of contract. Fish and chips: totally fine. Just chips: how dare you!
I suppose the argument “YES BUT YOU DON’T SELL BLOODY CHIPS DO YOU? YOU SELL FRIES!” is not watertight enough, legally speaking.
Corporate Sponsor Madness Part 2
So these massive global sporting events turn out to be a bit pricey. You have to build a place to do the running around in, you have to make sure there are adequate facilities for all the athletes from all over the world, you’ve got to book some top entertainers for the opening ceremony. Hell, the fireworks bill alone could feed Ipswich for a year. Luckily, apart from British taxpayers, there’s a lot of input from businesses wishing to have their names associated with the Games. Now, there has been a tax incentive offered to these sponsors, in that they could apply to have the tax taken off their earnings from products sold on site, or otherwise affiliated with the Games. This, given the huge bill to pay, has got more than a few people’s backs up. The interesting thing is that four of the corporations involved (hats off to Coca-Cola, GE, Visa and, yes, chippy old McDonalds) have publicly said they will not be asking for this perk to be applied. If the other seven companies follow suit, maybe all will be well after all.
The End of Twenty Twelve
I don’t mean Christmas and the New Year, I mean Twenty Twelve, the best satirical comedy show of the year. Never mind the anticlimax after the games is over, how will we cope without Siobhan, Nick, Kay and the Security Committee’s Special Catastrophisation Unit? How will we cope without Ian and Sally? How will we cope without THIS?
The global economy being what it is, Britain is attempting to ease back on public spending. We’ve already lost silly fripperies like libraries, community support programs and benefits for people who are unable to work. Disabled Britons are facing an uncertain future, as the system for claiming assistance with mobility and care support is being overhauled by a government that wants to paint them as work-shy and greedy in order to make the cuts they feel the economy needs. So, as with the tax situation above, quite how this squares up with a multi-billion pound tournament, which costs far more than any savings the cuts to benefits will bring in, is anyone’s guess. It will certainly be interesting to see what any Paralympian gold medalists (and therefore the pride of our nation) have to say about disability benefit cuts, should the question arise.
So far we’ve heard about missiles on the roofs of properties overlooking the site, spot checks on anyone looking shifty within a three-mile radius, a strong police presence and of course the desire to make sure nothing can possibly go wrong. And we all know that this means people who are not even involved in the Olympics will end up in the wrong place in the wrong time, and may, as a result, find themselves severely inconvenienced… right in the face.
All these people coming over to see the games are going to need somewhere to stay, aren’t they? And London is not a cheap place to live. So it would be awful if unscrupulous landlords were to hike up the rent on their properties for the duration, just to try and turn a quick quid. It would be even worse if they insisted their usual tenants were to move out in order to fleece visitors from elsewhere out of as much money as they can afford. Still, it probably won’t happen, right? Oh.
And worst of all…
All The Bickering
Two bores in a bar, one obsessed with the glory and pageantry, the other obsessed with the cost and ultimate futility of the endeavor. They start to argue. And argue. And argue. Night turns to day, day turns to month, year turns to infinity and still they argue. The trouble is, neither point of view is wholly right, but both sides have their merits. During the event, Mr. Negative will be infuriated by the excitable, uncritical coverage, and afterwards, Ms. Positive will be dismayed at the inevitable news stories suggesting things could have been done more efficiently, and with less waste. And that’s if everything goes really, really well.
It’s time, then, for all Londoners to invest in a good stout pair of earplugs and keep them to hand.
Fraser McAlpine is British…that explains a lot.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic