Join the Smiley Cult of the Five Circles? Sorry, but I Have a Democratic Right To Be Bored (and I’m Exercising It While I Still Can)


Enthusiasm is compulsory only in totalitarian dictatorships. Anywhere else, we are free to be keen if we want to, and bored if we want to.

So I wish people would stop telling me that I should enjoy the Olympics, or be proud of them, or think that they will in some way benefit this country.

But they won’t stop telling me. Hardly a day goes by without another previously independent mind surrendering to this pseudo-religion of obligatory smiles.

And that makes me suspicious. What is this strange cult? In the end, the Olympics is nothing more than a large athletics meeting.

Before Hitler and Dr Goebbels made it into a torch-lit and grandiose spectacle, you could be in the same city as the Games and barely notice.

Are we really that interested? And if we are, are we interested for good reasons? Personally, I find it very odd that large crowds have turned out in the street to see a glorified pilot light carried about in a large cheese-grater.

Even odder is the fact that there has been no fuss at all about the appalling treatment of a boy on a bicycle who had the temerity to ride alongside the procession in Haverhill, Essex, on Saturday, July 7.

It is hard to see from the film, but he looks about 12 to me. As he comes level with the portly torch-bearer, he is seized by a baseball-capped ‘Torch Guard’, spun round, clasped by the neck, thrown to the ground, almost in front of a moving car in the procession, which visibly brakes hard, pinned down on the road and finally hustled on to the pavement.

You’d think he’d tried to assassinate the Monarch, not ridden his bike too close to the Goebbels flame.

I can’t see much difference between the behaviour of the ‘Torch Guard’ and that of the menacing Chinese goons we all disliked so much four years ago when they escorted Dr Goebbels’s candle round the world.

The event happens so quickly that most of the crowd barely notice. But I have now watched it several times, and it makes me angrier every time I do so.

This is supposed to be a light-hearted, generous-spirited event. But it isn’t really. It’s an overbearing, officious, self-important celebration of corporate greed, unpunished corruption, tolerated cheating and multiculturalism.

As for it being a demonstration of the greatness of Britain, what can I say? If they gave out Olympic medals for fatherless families, deindustrialisation, graffiti, violent disorder, traffic congestion, illiteracy, swearing or really high train and bus fares, we’d be going for gold in a big way.

I suspect these are features of our country we want to hide from potential investors – in which case, why is the stadium adorned by a structure that looks like an abandoned and vandalised blast-furnace?

And then there are the alleged economic benefits. Ho, ho, ho. No doubt these will be calculated according to the Martian mathematics under which something we were told would cost £2.3 billion actually cost £9.4 billion – and this was announced as an ‘underspend’.

Will the world be impressed? Well, would you be impressed if a family in your street, who were jobless, undischarged bankrupts with delinquent children, whose roof leaked, whose wiring was dangerous, whose garden fence was rotten and whose unmown lawn was full of weeds, suddenly hired a marquee and a brigade of maids and waiters, and invited everyone to a noisy champagne party?

Count me out of the compulsory joy. It reminds me all too much of May Day in Soviet Moscow. I once thought that was all over, but now I realise that it’s coming here.

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