The Olympics haven’t even started yet and I’m already sick of hearing what a triumph they are. I’m also being told, constantly, that I should stop moaning. Not directly, that would be rude, but indirectly. The time for cynicism is over, say the pundits. The enthusiasm for the Torch Relay has silenced the naysayers! Boris bloody Johnson, a man whose mouth should permanently be stuffed with footwear, told us that it was time for critics to ‘put a sock in it’.
Well, fine. When someone – preferably Hedonism Bot – cries ‘Let the Games… begin!’, I shall dutifully sit and cheer on Team GB*. I’m as excited about these Olympic Games as I’ve ever been. I’m not a hugely sport-orientated person, but the Olympics are fun; a chance to watch some of the lesser-known sports being played at the absolute top level. I’m agog at the skill and power of the gymnasts, left breathless by the furious excitement of the BMX races, lulled by the hypnotic calm of the diving. I think it’s great, and I reckon London 2012 will be a fine tournament. Christ knows, it’s cost enough.
But does this nullify my right to complain about said cost? It’s not just monetary – the diversion of public funds to the Games is galling, but not exactly unexpected – it’s the human cost. Having to live around the Olympics is a contest in itself. And I do mean around – every piece of information I’ve been given, as a resident of London (I’ve only been here 10 years, am I allowed to call myself a Londoner yet?), has said the same thing: Get out of the way. From the less-than-useless Get Ahead of the Games pamphlets sending me in circles trying to discover exactly how disrupted my commute will be to Boris’s instantly-notorious public service announcement in stations and, now, on buses the message is clear. You’re an annoyance, person who lives here. Tourists are coming. People with money are coming. Upheaval is coming. Flee the storm or be broken.
Living in the East brings its own little annoyances, too. A temporary controlled parking zone in my area. Oh, big fucking whoop, Moth, you drama queen. Get over it, yeah yeah but a CPZ is a cherished moneyspinner for my local council**, and one we’ve voted away many times before. You can see how this might look like the thin end of the wedge. There’s also a huge campsite not 300 yards from my house, as the crow flies. This has a licence to play music and screen movies to ten o’clock on weekends and – bafflingly – even later on weekdays. ‘Close your windows, you whining Nimby!’ you might say, and I’d reply ‘In this fucking heat, are you mental? Also I don’t know if that’s the right way to use Nimby.’ Then there’s the brand exclusion zone around Stratford and the extra traffic and and and it all adds up.
The totalitarianism of LOCOG doesn’t go away when the cauldron is lit tonight. I’ll enjoy the games, of course, but I reserve the right to feel aggrieved by the roughshod treatment my town has been subject to in order to make them work.
*My wife now says that this appellation simply washes over her now, she doesn’t hear it. For me, my inner observational comic is still saying ‘Team GB? What’s that all about? Where did that come from, huh?’
**A council that has blown an absolute fuckton of cash on six special events to mark the Olympics at the cost of, oh, you know, libraries and that.