I took a taxi from Victoria station to Edgware Road last Friday night and got talking to the cabby, who enthusiastically asked me: "Are you looking forward to the Olympics?!"
No actually, I'm not.
It took me just under seven minutes (London was surprisingly traffic free for a Friday night... "The calm before the storm!" he cheerily explained) to convince him that the Olympics is actually going to be the death of life as we know it for a full two months. I also hammered home the point that of course he's excited, he's about to have about 1 million more potential customers pour in to the Capital - Yay for cab drivers!
To be honest, the Olympics really scare me. And I actually mean it. The thought of the Olympics fills me with nothing but dread and a queasy sense of claustrophobia... Just how bad is it going to get, folks? There are men with guns on the roofs of flats, extra military being drafted in, even Boris is warning us, over and over and over and over again, to plan ahead, grin and bear it, allow extra time and to avoid Central London during the Games.
Sorry was that, avoid Central London during the Games? Are you serious, Boris? I LIVE in Central London and so do most of my friends. Upsettingly, a good proportion of them also live in and around the Stratford area which as of Friday I will affectionately be renaming 'Hell'. So what am I meant to do for the next two months, I ask? Keep Calm and Don't Leave The House?
That's just not going to happen. And before you start waving your Union Jacks in my direction and telling me that I'm an awful grump for not supporting my country, hear me out. I never have been and never will be, interested in Sports.
I have never watched the previous Olympic Games with any interest and the only athletes I can name are Beth Tweddle (I'm a girl, therefore I have seen the gymnastics) and Usain Bolt (he's in a Virgin ad, right?) So what's in this for me? Other than a complete disruption to my life that is, because at this particular moment, the only thing keeping me from leaving is the fact that the airlines have bumped up their prices out of the UK, to persuade us to stay. Imprisoned by five little rings that mean so much, to so many people.
Now, if your natural inclination at this stage of the conversation is to tell me all about the history of the Games and pride and team spirit and all that jazz, I want you to know that it is not the Games themselves that bother me. Plenty of people DO like sports, they love the Olympics, they are desperate to support their team and they should be allowed to do so. Sports, athletes and being at the top of your game can be a life changing experience for people. But why do they have to do it here, in my hometown?
The Olympics started in Athens. That's the history, that's the tradition and there it should stay until the end of time, in one stadium that just gets redone every four years. Wouldn't that be a great way for the host countries to save the billions they pour out of their own economy and into their Olympic parks, with no real idea of how these vast spaces can be beneficial to the areas they are built in, post-Games? I know we will generate income from the influx of tourism, (provided they're all carrying Visa, sponsors of London 2012) but I have a little hunch that with five McDonald's in the Olympic village alone, one of which is "cathedral" in size, local businesses might just miss out on that cash.
And whilst I have your attention, I should note my absolute horror at discovering that McDonald's aren't just the official sponsors of the Olympics 2012, but have been sponsoring the Games in years past and hope to continue in the future. I'm sorry but can we just take a minute to pause... and THINK? So junk food is sponsoring the best athletes in the world? A McDonald's has been built in the Athlete's part of the village? And we're letting them have a monopoly on chips? NO local chips allowed! Only McDonald's branded chips! Why not replace the shot puts with Big Macs and the relay baton with a steaming Apple Pie?!
This whole concept is the antithesis of socially responsible business - it seems that again, we've picked the money of the corporate giants over government pledges to promote locally grown food at the Games... and now, rather than letting the Games inspire people to live healthier lives, it's inspiring them to get there, watch their sports and then treat themselves to McDonald's after a hard day of sitting down in a stadium. In the words of Terence Stephenson:
"It is very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem."
But sponsors aside, there are more changes to our hometown that are really starting to make me eggy - namely the Games lanes. Since when did a sporting event constitute the shutting down of 30 miles of crucial (and already painfully congested) London roadway? Forget me and my commuters' plight, I'm thinking about local businesses, people with disabilities, anyone who cannot for whatever reason, take public transport over these summer months. What about places like Wapping, which has essentially been isolated to the point of becoming an island by the temporary barriers that stretch all the way up the highway? There is now only just one road in and one road out... Scary.
Again, we've heard Boris promise that the Games lanes will be operated flexibly so that when Olympic demand is low, us non VIP actual residents of the city will be allowed to drive freely in them without being raped with a £130 fine. Why then, am I currently staring at endless images of empty Olympic lanes and 32mile tailbacks on the M4? And believe me, if that scenario continues and the expected 1300 cars per hour are not travelling on the Games routes, I will be back in those lanes taking my chances at a fine. Not to be an anarchist, but if we all refused to pay, there wouldn't be much they could do about it...
Well, that is unless they decided we were 'Olympic criminals' under the new and completely made up bracket of 'Olympic Offences', which are basically just like regular offences, but with harsher punishments because they were committed in, around or during the Olympics.
Are the London authorities so desperate to show that they are taking hard line that they will change the law willy nilly to fit in with the "ethos of the Olympics"? And if we were to introduce sports offences, surely the first place to start would be the awful beer chugging, public transport ruining, punch swinging, foul mouthed football fans that we have to deal with on a monthly basis? And how, exactly, with such a major security fuck up (if you are still reading this you will no doubt be familiar with the G4S shambles and the recent stabbing in Stratford Westfield...) is this even going to be enforced?
There is only one thing about the upcoming months that I won't be complaining about. And that is the weather. Although I have been told (by hugely unreliable sources) that even the sunshine that seems to have come to us out of nowhere after months of rainy grey vileness, has been modified by the government to keep us happy. Hot, sweaty and happy. Melting on the overcrowded tubes happy. Stuck in sweltering traffic jams happy. Olympic happy.
Oh and Boris, I just hope you don't end up with egg on your face when it all goes wrong, because let us not forget that it was you who said:
"London is more prepared for the Games than any other Olympic city has ever been."
Cue tube strike.
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