Sunday, 7 August 2011

Protect And Survive - no, it's the Olympics

It is difficult to evade the smug, self-congratulatory effluvia of Boris and Dave now that there is less than twelve months to go until the egregious folly of the London Olympics comes to pass.  The only crumb of comfort for our invisible Opposition is that, with the exception of rent-a-gob Harriet Harman, the Tories are drinking from the poisoned chalice without noting its provenance from Master Tony and Ken Livingstone, eager to wrap themselves in spurious nationalism to distract from the carnage in the world around them.

Despite protestations that London is well-prepared and agog with enthusiasm (you know the score, pictures of Pearly Kings with their knucles dragging along the carpet) the tone of official propaganda has taken on what can only be described as panic.  For the best part of six weeks next summer the impression is that the centre of London will be some sort of grid-locked war zone, where the hardy venture with a spirit of adventure, a week's supply of Kendal Mint Cake and the kind of forced bonhomie that will evade arrest when confronted with the Met's finest armed with instructions to watch out for dissidents who aren't actually either interested in the crass spectacle or enjoying the disruption to their right to exist.

The weakness of London's infrastructure is clear.  Transport for London is spending time, money and effort in trying to persuade people not to go into work - perhaps a simple bribe would be best - as there will be too many people travelling for its system to cope.  Warnings of delays of up to two hours on the Tube and apocalyptic predictions of congestion on main line trains and stations should probably be accompanied by a Durer engraving and a prediction that those mortals who are sustaining the economy will be struck down with a plague of boils if they dare to impede the progress of the State's idols.  The only positive side-effect may be that more working at home is possible, but that is probably unintended as it might encourage less surveillance and more independent thinking.

At the same time, the centre and east of the UK's capital will take on an appearance more akin to that of an Eastern European capital in the pomp of Communist misrule.  Huge swathes of roads will be cordoned off, bus lanes suspended and pedestrians impeded to allow the "elite" of Olympic bureaucrats, visiting dignitaries and, lower down the pecking order, competitiors, to rush around the city at high speed.  Money will be spent on enforcement - making a mockery of the normal indifference of the police to violations of traffic law - in order to allow the panjandrums the illusion that London will function.

All this is hardly new, but nevertheless worthy of a re-heated rant.  What finally astonished me last week, and it has taken this long to unlock my jaw, was the revelation that there is no confidence that food supplies will hold up as a consequece of disruption to deliveries.  Londoners are being advised to stock up on "non-perishable" foods before all the tomfoolery kicks off.  Not much consolation when you have not merely funded the folly, failed to secure tickets to the elimination stage of Bog Snorkelling, and been advised that your working hours will now be four a.m. until eight p.m. to avoid any chance of spoiling the Olympic experience for those who have no financial stake in the capital.

Stocking up with food may well be very well in any circumstances, although I would have thought that this exhortation should also extend to alcoholic refreshment to promote oblivion in the face of vapidity.  However, the resonances with the 1980s are chilling.  Clearly the Olympic Delivery Authority (no salary too low) has been dusting off "Protect and Survive" with its advice on how to survive a nuclear war using only a couple of doors, some sand and three packets of digestive biscuits.  All that's missing is for the ODA to advise people not to strain their local undertaking services and leave dead relatives outside, tagged, awaiting September 2012 and a return to normality.  Olympic fatigue doesn't rank with radiation sickness but it will be equally pervasive.

This insight into the minds of the Olympians should be a rallying-cry to those of us who fear the current direction of the state.  The callous disregard for the welfare of citizens in the face of a corporate behemoth, be it Murdoch or the East London Sporting Fiasco, and the rhetoric of concern and the mangy carrot of "regeneration" are allied to lies and double-speak.  Let it not be forgotten that the last European nation to host the Olympics was Greece, and they are hardly joyous about the continued legacy of debt and rotting real estate.

Civil disobedience is probable, and, provided that it is non-violent, should not be discouraged.  The act of going about one's onw business and attempting not to be disrupted or thrown off course by the entire farrago is probably going to be criminalised by next year, but in the meantime...  And Boris might not be there, forced to spend more time with his families and concentrate on his leadership bid.

Britain may not be world-beating in many aspects these days, but it is probably the leading proponent of naked emperors.

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