Taking the shine off a Gold medal: How the Tories stole the Olympics
What follows might upset some people but probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me. I’m hating the Olympics. It’s not the fact that so many of the events are on at stupid times or that there are yet more esoteric or downright boring sports this time (I don’t get the appeal of competitive trampoline, I just don’t). It’s that this year there’s something more upsetting about the world’s biggest sporting event
One problem I’ve always had with international sport is the ugly, blood-stained ghost of patriotism loitering around every corner with a Union Jack painted on its face and a ‘keep calm and carry on’ t-shirt across it’s chest. I know I shouldn’t equate it with xenophobia, there’s plenty of British things I’m proud of, but the sight of people running around with their national flag across their chest either puts me in mind of a superhero movie or a Leni Riefenstahl propaganda video and I’m not able to shake that off.
Also there’s the issue of ‘Team GB’ as a concept. I don’t really see why Andy Murray (a proud Scotsman who has independence in the past) can’t accept his medal draped in a Saltire, rather than a reminder of Scotland’s 100s of years of subjugation by the English Crown. Also don’t even get me started on the dirge that is the National Anthem. Team GB, with its Lion logos and faint whiff of colonialism feels like an anachronism in an age where we’re supposed to be leaving imperialism behind us.
It’s worth saying that I don’t take pleasure in casting scorn on the athletes. As a whole British Olympians seem to be by far and away the best kind of sportsperson. People like Jess Ennis and Chris Hoy come across as personable, humble and inspiring, which is more than you can say for your average premier league footballer.
I also have to confess that I really enjoyed the 2012 London Olympics, and that’s only adding to the sting of hating this one. This isn’t a kind of “it was here so obviously it was better” mentality, lest we forget the last minute involvement of the army to cover security due to a massive fuck up, or the fact our capital’s elected representative was Boris Johnson as the height of his stint as austerity comic relief.
I enjoyed them because of Danny Boyle.
I mentioned earlier there are plenty of things that do make me proud to be British. I’m proud that we set up the NHS so as a country we can collectively pick one another up when we fall. I’m proud of our multiculturalism. I’m proud of that our art and music has spread over the world and touched so many people. I’m proud of our sense of community.
Danny Boyle got all that and shoved it into his l opening ceremony and for several weeks in the summer of 2012 patriotism wasn’t about being a dick who hated other people’s countries, it was about something genuinely positive, far away from the bigotry it can be associated with.
Fast forward to 2016 and all that good feeling is gone. We’re 6 years into a Tory Government whose entire ethos is about ripping up everything Boyle highlighted as great. They’re taking away our NHS, their defunding our culture, they’re destroying our social mobility and they’re turning communities against one another, just as they’ve turned the rest of Europe against us. Not to mention the once clownish mayor of London is now our overtly racist foreign secretary.
I don’t dislike the Olympics because of anything to do with Brazil or even because I find sport boring. The Olympics have become a visceral reminder of everything we’ve had taken from us. You can call me melodramatic (and you’d be right) but I think until we’ve pulled ourselves back from the brink of the cultural abyss that Theresa May seems more than happy to shove us into I’m not going to be able to get behind the quest for gold at the Olympics.