In just over two weeks’ time, amid much pomp and ceremony, the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ will commence.
Love it or hate it, you’ll find it hard to avoid the London Olympics – especially as there is a three-line whip for the national media to attempt to brainwash us into thinking we actually care about handball, weightlifting and synchronised swimming.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So say the volunteer zombies speaking the gospel according to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
I should hope so, given the fact that the Games is costing £11 billion (About four times what they said it would back when London was successful in its bid).
I certainly wouldn’t want British taxpayers having to stump up that sort of money every four years.
We’d be doing a Greece/Spain/Italy (insert as appropriate) before you know it.
Never mind. It’s not as if that £11 billion could have been spent on anything more important, is it?
Like improving the NHS or saving 20,000 Army jobs…
No, much better to spend £11 billion on a two and a half-week vanity exercise which will do nowt but regenerate a deprived bit of the capital and has created legions of non-jobs.
Let’s forget, for a moment, the fact that the Olympics is a massive corporate monster.
Let’s turn a blind eye to the over-zealous security measures which led to armed police surrounding a bag containing an electronic cigarette and bully-boys wrestling small children off their bicycles if they get too close to the Olympic Torch parade.
Let’s set aside the bizarre ticketing arrangements and pretend that we buy into this idea that London 2012 is an event for the whole nation.
Let’s kid ourselves into thinking that there will indeed be a huge surge in the numbers of children playing sport as a result of watching Greco-Roman wrestling and other things which can, at best, be described as niche.
Let’s set aside the questionable selection process which has led to a world number one-ranked athlete being left out of Team GB because his face doesn’t fit while a former drug-cheat is given the green light.
But I would suggest there’s still a problem with giving Team GB your whole-hearted support later this month.
You see, quite a few of our athletes aren’t actually, er… British at all.
In the same way that Kevin Pietersen (KP) and Jonathan Trott, of our all-conquering test cricket team aren’t technically English.
Or, seeing as how we all love tennis for a nanosecond, the way Canadian Greg Rusedski was Britain’s number one not so long ago. Other sports, such as rugby union, are just as guilty, of course.
Yes, Team GB has ‘borrowed’ quite a few of its athletes from other nations.
This has led to the accusation that we are fielding ‘plastic Brits’ – one which I find hard to disagree with.
It will certainly be interesting listening to the commentators trying to whip up a bit of patriotic ferver when our league of nations of adopted runners, jumpers, cyclists and wrestlers do their thing.
We have, in no particular order: the not very British-sounding Olga Butkevych – a Ukrainian wrestler; 400-metre runners Michael Bingham and Shana Cox from the U.S. – along with hurdler Tiffany Porter; Yamile Aldama, representing us in the triple jump, is from Cuba; cyclist Philip Hindes is from Germany; and last, but by no means least, long jumper Shara Proctor is from the Caribbean island of Anguilla (which I had to look up). Meanwhile, the British handball team has almost 20 foreign-born players. Ten of Team GB’s basketball players were born overseas while nine of ‘our’ volleyball team were.
Team GB chief Andy Hunt has emphatically denied there are any ‘plastic Brits’.
Well he would, wouldn’t he?
He said: “Everyone who will compete for Team GB has a British passport and has fulfilled all the eligibility criteria and I’m totally satisfied around that.”
But how can we truly get behind the notion of Team GB when we know full well that many of its competitors are only here by dint of marriage or because they give our slim medal hopes a boost?
You see, when KP or Trotty score a century for England I don’t quite feel the warm glow I get when Englishmen Alistair Cook or Ian Bell achieve the same feat.
So I know exactly how I’ll feel if American Tiffany Porter – laughably named captain of our athletics team – makes it on to the podium.
None of this is new, of course. Eighties throw-back yours truly well remembers the furore over bear-footed South African Zola Bud wearing the red, white and blue.
Frankly, this sort of thing is a nonsense.
It makes a mockery of international sport and renders the medals table meaningless.
Personally, I’d rather see inferior athletes born and bred in this country competing at the highest level of whatever sport it may be rather than foreigners shipped in as a way of massaging our standing and justifying the largesse of our Olympics extravaganza.
If Britain can’t produce top class athletes across the various sporting disciplines then I would suggest it is the bodies in charge of those sports in this country who need to take a long, hard look at themselves.
The answer surely isn’t to turn Team GB into some sort of foreign legion flying flags of convenience in the hope that it brings in a few more golds, silvers and bronzes.
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel