I’m talking about the Olympics, obviously. And I have to address their concerns, and my own. Yes, London’s transport system is going to creak and groan and probably, once or twice, break. Yes, the security is creepy and totalitarian and in some cases frankly weird (anti-aircraft missiles over London? Tell me, when you shoot these planes down, where do you think they’ll land?). Yes, as we saw yesterday, the IOC and Locog have done their level best to turn the whole thing into a festival of Mammon. And yes, the fact that they’ve cordoned off a lane of most of London’s major roads for the sole use of Olympic bigwigs is just bizarre. But let’s not write the whole thing off before it’s started.
I was living in Sydney during the 2000 Games, and it was an incredible time to be in the city – even though I only successfully got tickets for a women’s group-stage field hockey match between South Korea and Spain. (I’ve got tickets to a football group match this time round: the glamour tie of South Korea vs Gabon. It seems that fate is trying to make me a Republic of Korea fan.) It felt like an ongoing party, especially the closing ceremony, which essentially turned into an all-night shindig along the banks of Darling Harbour. The whole nation got behind its heroes – Cathy Freeman, the part-Aboriginal 400-metre runner, became a global star, and a symbol of Australia coming to terms with some of the troubles of its past. And, despite the concerns in the buildup – largely the same concerns we’re having now – it all came off wonderfully smoothly.
If you’re a Londoner, as well, surely you can remember the excitement on 6 July 2005, when it was announced that the Games were coming here. It’s hard, now, to remember it without the knowledge of what happened the next day, but even before the horrors of the Tube bombings there was a feeling of togetherness in the city; I know I got quite emotional when it was announced. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, and however hard people have tried to muck it up, it still has the potential to be great.
Yes, it could all go wrong. Yes, a party of tourists could get lost on the Underground for two weeks, having to survive on rats and diesel. Yes, you might literally never make it to work, or you might have to hand over all your worldly possessions to a glowering security thug in mirrored sunglasses, or you might be forced to eat only Olympic-Branded Special Food and wear Olympic-Branded Special Clothes for the duration of the Games. But that hasn’t happened yet. It could be wonderful. Save your complaining for afterwards.