Maybe it’s just my twitter feed, filled as it is with skeptics and academics for whom sport — the opiate of masses — is of little interest to them. On the other hand, maybe the national pastimes of rampant pessimism and celebration of failure are just getting out of hand. Whatever the reason, I’m getting a little bit pissed off the constant knocking of the Olympics and LOCOG. I for one — though I’m sure I’m not alone — am really looking forward to the games; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the greatest sporting festival in the world.

This week we have had several minor twitter storms over the Olympics, caused by musicians not being paid, chip-gate, the lack of a British real-ale for sale and the email sent to ticket holders outlining the horrific entrance rules which outlaw the taking of weapons, banners and large hats into the Olympic park. First up, the unpaid musicians; It’s a bit shitty, but I’d like to point out that the organisers are hardly holding a gun to the head of those musicians and making them play, those musicians, just like every punter are free to say, “Do you know what? These terms and conditions suck, I’m outta here.”

As for the entrance conditions, well these seem pretty sensible to me. Taking a large hat into the Olympic venue is a pretty inconsiderate thing to do given that no-one behind you will be able to see anything. Similarly the restrictions on what you can eat and drink inside the Olympic venues are no different to those at any Premier League football match or Cricket Test Match. You’re paying for a ticket to watch sport, not take an afternoon 15-course taster menu at The Ivy. Just like at any other sporting event, you will be able to accompany your sporting entertainment with a shitty selection of burgers, fizzy pop and pissy lager, and if you don’t like that you can take some sandwiches.

“But why couldn’t we ask an ethical, organic health food company to provide the food and drink for the games?” Well, because such a company doesn’t exist; certainly not a multi-national with the funds to match the usual corporate giants. Again, you do know you don’t have to do what advertisers tell you, right?

Then there are security issues. Sure the missiles on tower blocks are over-the-top. But, so too are nuclear-warheads in submarines, but that doesn’t mean that the deterrent arguments for Trident or Fred Wigg tower are invalid.  And besides, all this appears to have been driven by the government rather than LOCOG. Similarly, the G4S security guards — a situation easily predicted by any Private Eye reader — whilst an undoubted fuck up, has been sorted by LOCOG’s contingency plan to have 3000 military personnel on standby. Why aren’t they being praised for having good contingency plans? Well, because the real issue here is money.

Money – the source of many an argument. There is no doubt that the Olympics are costing a lot of money. Surely therefore, every million spent by the corporates is a million saved for the taxpayer? Exactly how much public money spent will probably never be  known, but it’s likely to be upwards of £10bn. This will be difficult to add up properly because there are grey areas in spending such as security (are government or LOCOG paying for those missiles and fighter jets?), and investments in infrastructure and transport, which will last long after the games and were probably a good idea anyway. Whatever the true figure, it’s a lot of money, especially in the current economic climate, but few people were predicting the current economic crisis in 2005 when the games were awarded, let alone in 2003 when the bid was submitted.

Don’t forget, of course, that the public balance sheet will have increased revenue generated by the games, though the increases in VAT receipts, tourist spend and general good-will towards the UK will be even harder to calculate than the cost of the games.  I’m under no illusion though; we’ll still be running at a loss.  But so what?

The Olympics are worth the money to enrich our lives with this sporting festival. I’ve no doubt there are plenty of people who disagree, they’re not sports fans. That’s perfectly ok, but the Olympics aren’t really for them. They’re for me and the millions of other sports fans in the country. I’m no fan of opera or experimental dance, but does that mean I think that we shouldn’t fund the arts council who fund much of these projects? No, because I recognise the cultural importance of a diverse society where the interests of people other than myself are met and funded by public purse.  Just to put the money spent on The Olympics into perspective; despite severe cuts The Arts Council England have a £1.04bn budget for the next 3 years. Hosting an Olympic Games is not something that occurs everyday — The UK last hosted the games in 1948 — so we’re unlikely to host it again in most of our lifetimes, so we’ll have matched funding (and more)* for the arts by the time it comes around again.

In the meantime, relax, grab a Real Ale and healthy snack, sit back and watch the incredible sporting prowess on show, because that ultimately is what the Olympic Games is about.

* Yes, yes, I know sports funding will continue, etc. I just wanted to highlight that fact that quite a lot of money is spent on stuff that I’ll get no personal enjoyment from.

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