Rock star Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths, has often been hailed as England's leading "miserabilist", but his crown may have been snatched from him by the British press in the lead up to the London Olympics.

We've heard about nothing but the downside, with dire warnings about traffic meltdowns, budget over-runs, grim weather (I write this in a 29C heat wave), security failures, and over-zealous policing of brands by the sponsors. There's very little about the good stuff: the dedication of thousands of unpaid volunteers, and just as a side thought, the excitement of the actual games.

"I'm English and so I crave disappointment- and actively seek it out," explains comedian Bill Bailey. He's right on the mark. Not so much glass half empty, as 'Glass? What glass? Nobody even gave me a glass!'

Did I mention the security debacle? I must have - it's despoiled the front pages of every newspaper for the last few weeks. The chief of private security provider G4S discovered a shortfall of, well, only several thousand personnel, nine days before they were to go on duty. He was grilled by the House of Commons Select Committee in what can only be described as an outbreak of therapeutic schadenfreude. During the interrogation his perma-tan visibly faded as our noble members of parliament deflected the public's attention from the scandal of their own expenses claims, clearly revelling in the vilification of an incompetent private sector company.

But there is a great upside to this failure. It gives the lie to a popular urban myth, which is that outsourcing necessarily means better and cheaper. The upshot has been that the police and army can do the job - probably better - at half the price. So the wizard's curtain has been pulled back: the greatest advantage of outsourcing is that it allows you to outsource blame.

This strange scenario inverts the original intent of the Olympics that young men could prepare for war. Now they are being called back from war to help us get ready for the games.

An equally big frenzy for the 'no glass' brigade has been the heavy-handed tactics of the sponsors in eradicating any evidence of other brands within the militarized zone, which we're led to believe London has become. Now while you'd have to be loopy to defend Coca Cola and McDonalds as sponsors, but they wouldn't be there if we hadn't colluded. In fact, anyone who eats or drinks this stuff is a collaborator, and you can hardly blame these giants of obesity for taking advantage of the world stage that's been presented to them on a plate. Or in a tin. Whining about them so often has provided more free advertorial then thousands of logo placements and banners.

It's been said that Team GB - the rebranded British entry - tends to triumph in the 'sitting down' sports: equestrianism, cycling, rowing and sailing. Not a bad thing, as these accounted for most of the 17 Gold Medals we won in Beijing, placing Great Britain in a very healthy 4th position.

But what we don't want is to become gold-medallists in the ultimate new sitting down event - the couch potato triathalon.

A healthy alternative, and a very British Olympics, would be to run it as a series of village fete sports days. The vicar presents the prizes, Robinsons Barley Water and Marmite are the sponsors, the vicar's wife passes around the cucumber sandwiches and scones, while the winners are toasted with a plastic tumbler of squash. Delightful, but unlikely.

So thank goodness the nay-sayers have almost had their day as the real Olympics begins at last. Barring some attention-seeking nutcase inflicting their agenda on the Games, it's going to be a wonderful two weeks. Nearly everything will run perfectly, medals will be won, tears will be shed, and all the predictions of gloom will be so many 'happy meal' cartons in the dustbin of memory.

I will be enjoying the Games in a small Irish bar in Montreal, playing a version of a drinking game called Dallas. The original goes like this: you watch the soap opera and every time a character has a drink on screen, you do the same. This is usually manageable unless it's an episode featuring the Oil Barons' Ball, at which point most players become completely legless.

My Olympics take on this game will be to have a sip of Guinness every time I see a Coca Cola sign on TV and a little Irish whiskey whenever the golden arches appear. Let's see if I survive. Patrick, the bar owner, has put up his own banner saying:

'Enjoy the O'Lympics'. I hope you do.

Nigel Barlow July 2012

 

Copyright © 2015 Nigel Barlow. All Rights Reserved.