I am the Olympic Grinch. The Olympic Flame has arrived and the Olympic Torch is on its all inclusive strictly non elite politically correct 8,000 mile jog round Britain. I have been told again and again from every popular medium that this is it; this is when it gets REAL, when the Olympic Fever starts to grip!
There are things I like about the Olympics and to which I am looking forward.
I find the pursuit of excellence but honest young men and women commendable right and good. I particularly like the one’s that look healthy rather than just ultra fit or strong. The sailors are like that.
I am looking forward to the rowing and the cycling where Britain’s men and women excel.
I shall no doubt be charmed by a brilliantly conceived and choreographed opening and closing ceremony, thanks to Danny Boyle.
But there is a lot that I do not like.
I do not like the cheesy tracksuits the bearers of the Olympic Torch.
I do not like being told that I have to be excited and proud.
I do not like the £12 billion bill.
I do not like the “Olympic Family,” which is shorthand for the thousands of hangers on, free loaders and bribe acceptors from God-knows-what-land who appear to gorge themselves at the trough of junketing and corruption.
I do not like the non–executive directorships, and the kick backs.
I do not like the absurd sponsorship and product placement and the totalitarian policing of the same.
I do not like the Great Visa Rip Off.
I do not like Seb Coe. I don’t know why. Sorry, Seb.
I do not like the sinister sounding, all powerful LOCOG and its Big Brother overtones.
I do not like parts of London being turned into a militarized zone.
I do not like the drugs cheats.
I do not like the “Zil” lanes which will see the bloated “Olympic Family” whizzing about like KGB oligarchs of old, lording it over the humble little Brits who are paying for all this.
I am the Olympic Grinch.
This week I had to go to Middlesbrough. I was gripped as it happened not by Olympic Fever, but by another more immediate fever, namely flu. I was offered a morning’s work for good money so I took it despite the flu because like a lot of the inhabitants of this benighted land who are not senior civil servants or bankers, I am a bit broke and every single penny counts.
So I beetled up the A1, fortified by six pints of Lemsip and the Lord knows what else to spend a fitful night in a clean, functional and quite depressing Travelodge. My flu got worse and I spent the night by degrees coughing, sneezing, vomiting and fitfully sleeping. My throat closed up and it felt like I had drunk acid. I was running a serious temperature and when I did sleep I had wild, hallucinatory dreams.
I hauled myself out of bed at an early hour and dosed myself with more Lemsip and honey and throat tablets and went off to my allotted task, which was successfully completed by lunchtime, somehow. I then walked back to my car.
Middlesbrough is a very sad place. The people are almost universally charming and kind, but the town feel like it has had the life sucked, or beaten out of it. It is big, spacious and open with some fine old buildings, although blighted by the ubiquitous cancer of 1960’s Stalinist concrete.
But there is a funny atmosphere. It feels eerily quiet. There are not many people about, and those that there are look harassed and sad. And poor.
There is no life. It is a walking corpse of a town.
As I walked back to my car I felt exhausted. I saw a little town house. It was a sort of drop in centre run and there was a sign that said it was run by the Catholic Redemptorist order. It was called the John Paul Centre.
I don’t know a lot about that order. But it offered an open invitation to anyone to come in and find a moment’s peace in the little chapel. I felt the sudden urge to do so and went in. It was no more than a large old converted eighteenth century town house really, a bit shabby, but the front room was converted into a very simple, basic chapel. There were quite a few souls there, mostly elderly, mostly I should think battered by the cares of long lives of hardship and now loneliness. I spent some time in quiet personal reflection. I would have stayed for Mass, but I was too tired and ill and hungry. I had a cup coffee in the little tea room and shop which formed part of the house, and went on my way.
And then I drove home, utterly worn out, aching, and tired.
I am reliably informed that LOCOG is based in a rather fancy office 32 storey office block in Canary Wharf.
Middlesbrough on a wet Friday morning. The John Paul Centre, and the people who go there. This the reality of much of modern Britain. It is a world LOCOG, Seb Coe, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband have never really seen, felt or touched.
So I remain the Olympic Grinch.
Gildas the Monk