SIR Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times, chairman of the National Trust and a columnist for The Guardian and London Evening Standard, is as much a part of the establishment as Nelson’s column.
So I’ve been enjoying his columns written in the run-up to the Olympic games (which, as you may have noticed, open tonight) because they seem to come from a spittingly-angry punk rather than a Sir.
I’ve occasionally offered mild criticisms of the Games myself, but I’ve felt constrained by the knowledge that many people like them very much, and who am I to disagree?
Well, that’s no problem for Sir Simon, who describes them as “an elitist, exclusive and stupefying costly folly” – which could be the words to a Billy Bragg song.
He is particularly enraged by the special treatment given to Olympic officials, their families and hangers-on. They’ve been given rooms in Park Lane hotels, not near the site of the Games but handy for West End shopping, and can drive to the Olympic park in their official BMWs along dedicated traffic lanes. All other vehicles are banned.
Jenkins also condemns, with great verve, the “hysterical” (e.g. ground-to-air missiles) Olympic security precautions, which make the event “a festival for the cosmopolitan rich and their armed guards.”
I wouldn’t go quite as Socialist Worker as that, but the only part of Jenkins’s polemic I really disagree with is: “People simply do not want to pay to watch people hulk weights, throw ancient weapons or swim on their backs.”
I agree that weightlifting and throwing events, unless there’s a Brit up for the gold, are mainly of interest to the competitors’ trainers and close families and shouldn’t be inflicted in the rest of us, but I rather enjoy watching people doing the backstroke with grace and style.
It’s clearly pointless, as you would find if you were trying to escape a great white shark, but sport, however hyped-up and in hock to big money it is, is not supposed to have too serious a purpose. That’s why it’s called sport, and why the Olympic Games are just games. I’m going to do my best to enjoy them.