I vividly remember Los Angeles ’84. I was 11 at the time and it meant a lot to me to be able to watch the Games. At Seoul ’88 I set an alarm to get up at 3am to watch Ben Johnson whip Carl Lewis in the 100m sprint live, only to be stripped of his title a few hours later. I was gutted. It was a slur on the Olympic dream. It was a few years later at Atlanta when that dream really began to take a downhill dive into corruption and corporate greed.
Now don’t get me wrong, I plan to watch as much of the competition as I can during the actual games, and am intrigued to see what Danny Boyle will have come up with for the opening ceremony. I am quietly excited at the prospect of Brits doing well, even if we do best at ‘sitting-down sports’! It’s the rest of it that is making me so angry. Here’s a few things I have read that have irked. Some may be urban myths, started by some games humbugs, it’s difficult to tell, but I have a horrible feeling that they are all quite true.
• All caterers involved with the games must not publically divulge their association for fear of upsetting the main food sponsor of the games. Not just during the games mind, but for 12 years afterwards!
• The official food and drinks sponsors of the games. Well, you don’t need me to tell you who they are, but shouldn’t the games be used as a massive opportunity to promote healthy diets?
• The UK has many of the finest brewery’s in the world, but if you go to an olympic event and fancy a pint, the only one at the bar will be Heineken. Remember their old slogan – ‘reaches parts other beers don’t reach’? Well only by paying large wads of cash and making it illegal for the other beers to even try…
• So you want to pay for an olympic ticket, or if you can bring yourself to drink / eat it, an official olympic beverage or hamburger, and you have run out of cash and need to use a card. Well, you can’t use Mastercard, American Express or any of the other cards aside from the official sponsor of the games.
• The ticketing system has been a complete fiasco. Overcomplicated and overpriced.
• Opportunities to put on free events like the marathon, road race and triathlon, have been massively limited by keeping the routes to small ‘laps’.
• The volunteers working on the games have been issued very strict instructions not to tweet or facebook what they are doing, who they are working with, or where they are, whilst working. Surely this is one of the reasons why plenty of folk volunteered?
• I received a number of calls from folk in Sheffield who were involved with organising the torch route party in the city, asking if I could show some adventure films on a big screen and other similar requests. Of course I said, what’s your bufget? Oh, no, they said, it’s all being done voluntarily. They can’t have it both ways – massive sponsorship deals and massive voluntary contributions.
• When we were driving south along Loch Lomond a few weeks ago we started to see signs telling us to expect long delays as the torch relay passed in the opposite direction. I actually thought cool, it’d be nice to actually see the torch. Not so. We passed in excess of 50 vehicles, mostly branded up with sponsors logos, and never saw the torch. It wasn’t even held aloft from one of the vehicles. What a monumental waste of resources. I like the fact that it has brought lots of people together, but it feels very much like the emperor’s new clothes.
• How is it that some torch bearers have been selling their torches, which they could buy for nearly £500 (criminal in itself) for £150,000 on ebay? The world we live in is clearly broken in a big way.
I am sure that there are plenty more examples that will rear their ugly heads over the coming month, but the above list is enough to have left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth about the whole thing.
Bring on the actual sport, and let’s get the other nonsense out of the way.