“London celebrates after winning a dramatic vote to host the 2012 Olympic Games,” screams the exultant BBC News headline at the UK’s Pyrrhic victory in the IOC ballot. But, have we heard this all before, somewhere?
Hatshepsut the Mendacious of Thebes, Junior Minister for Sport and Culture, told the convened members of the press corps that, thanks mainly to the inspired last minute intervention of His Most Excellent Pharaonic Majesty Khufu the Great — may the eternal light of Ra the Magnificent shine upon him — the Lower Kingdom had beaten off intense competition from the rival Hyskos and the Assyrians to be chosen as the venue for the 2512 BC u201CWonder of the Ancient Worldu201D contest.
Ignoring complaints that the monuments would cost the Kingdom much of its annual tribute and that small farmers, up and down the Nile, would find more of their grain taken in taxes to fund the project, Hatshepsut assured her audience that they could look forward to great benefits in future.
u201CThe Giza plateau has been a scene of social exclusion and low self-esteem for too long,u201D she said. u201CJust think of the possibilities for regeneration this project will bring to a deprived area — why, we could even end up making this into a UN World Heritage Site.u201D
Pointing out that the benefits to the local economy would be immeasurable, Hatshepsut noted that, according to official calculations from the statistics office at Karnak, u201Ctens of thousandsu201D of Hebrew slaves would be given a livelihood building the edifice, while the permanent revenues forecast to come from future tourism would amount to a u201Ca tidy sum, indeed.u201D
Hatshepsut further rejected criticism that the government had a poor record at managing such public projects and that the experience of previous winners such as Babylon, Olympia, and Halicarnassus was that cost overruns would be substantial and that long-term benefits would prove elusive.
u201CThere is a culture of u2018knocking’ in this country. We’ve learned from the mistakes of all the other empires,u201D she assured reporters. u201CThis is a time to stop carping from the sidelines and to get involved. We held a musical procession to eliminate poverty all over the Nubian desert. We’re tackling the man-made rise in Nile inundations by means of our tax on bullock dung fuel. Now we’re ready to put Giza on the map!u201D
Private economists at the Jordan Bank agreed with her prognosis.
u201CThe impact on growth could be significant. Fifteen billion talents of silver will be spent in the next 10 years. These are the sorts of events that boost consumer confidence!u201D said one.
Others focused more on the social consequences. Luxor social worker Ahmose the Corpulent told the media that she thought this would u201Creally make a difference to people’s lives — especially those of our youth communityu201D
u201CLots of us have never been involved in pyramid building due to years of institutional prejudice and a shocking lack of public investment. But now you’re going to find urchins from all over the Giza being inspired by their heroes to get involved in stone masonry and slave-driving.u201D
As a carefully-orchestrated rejoicing broke out across the land at this fulfilment of the Royal Will, word from the palace was that His Most Excellent Pharaonic Majesty Khufu the Great — may the eternal light of Ra the Magnificent shine upon him — told a member of his noble household that if it wasn’t all a roaring success, they could "bury him in the middle of the pyramid in a stone sarcophagus and blessed after-life, sailing through the starry heavens in a sacred reed-boat, be damned!"
Sean Corrigan [send him mail] writes from Switzerland.