Telander: Cue the usual host-Games celebration in London
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com August 13, 2012 9:52PM
A performer waves the national flag of Britain during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Updated: September 15, 2012 6:21AM
HEADING HOME FROM LONDON — No bomb went off, no terrorists did anything (that we know of), no missiles were fired, no mass arrests were made. Any Olympics that pulls that off automatically starts with a grade of B.
But such is the anxiety and civic breath-holding that goes with the planning and execution of the traveling global road show that when nothing horrible happens, when things basically go as planned, the new host city tumbles down the stairs of hyperbole in shocked relief and double-jointed, shoulder-dislocating, back-patting self-praise.
‘‘WE’RE WORLD BEATERS!’’ the London Sun said Monday.
‘‘BEST OF BRITISH — Amazing Farewell to Games!’’ said the Daily Star.
‘‘THE GLORIOUS GAMES: London Lauded As Britain Bids Farewell to the Olympics,’’ said the Daily Telegraph.
Inside that paper, the lead story was titled, ‘‘LONDON, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL.’’
“Eccentric, Bewildering — and Shameless Good Fun,’’ The Independent crowed about Sunday’s closing ceremonies. Some of us who watched could have gone with everything up to the last two words.
But let the Brits feel good about themselves.
They did a nice job. And they won a lot of medals, though most were in what they describe as ‘‘sitting sports.’’ (Read: rich folks’.)
But for those of us who have been to many Olympics, such in-house cheering is the norm. And who knew the Brits felt so inadequate before? They’ve got all that high-flying banking stuff (which ticks off Wall Street) and Paul McCartney, and they never joined the Euro-nation because pounds and stones are superior, they feel, to whatever France, Germany and Italy use.
Prime Minister David Cameron: ‘‘You only need two words to sum up these Games: Britain delivered. We showed the world what we are made of, we reminded ourselves what we can do, and we demonstrated that you should never, ever count Team GB down and out.’’
Did you ever count them out?
Did you count them anything?
Here’s the deal: With the largest security force ever, more spy cameras than Orwell could have imagined, seven years to prepare, no assurance that any of the public funds spent will truly benefit average citizens and the fact that normal tourism decreased during these Olympics, who couldn’t do this?
The wheel must be reinvented every four years in the Olympics fairy tale. And the British benefitted wildly by having great weather (Oh, were they worried about gloomy rain!), a modern tourist-ready city (15,000 well-trained cabbies driving roomy cabs!), and all the perks of being a stable, first-world, English-speaking nation. (You know you’re on the right side of the language divide when Russian, Japanese and even Chinese athletes have their countries’ names written on their warm-ups and jerseys in your alphabet rather than their own.)
These 2012 Games benefitted also from having two superstars for all time competing — Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. That was Britain’s good fortune, not its doing.
What if Bolt had tested positive for drugs or blown a hamstring? What if Phelps had finished out of the medals hunt? Stuff like that happens. Those are the dice that are rolled at every Olympics.
Was it Sydney’s fault that uber-star Marion Jones would turn out to be a BALCO client and go to jail? Was it Athens’ fault that the first woman ever to win the shot at ancient Olympia would be a druggie? Then, too, is it Atlanta’s fault for being an ugly, vapid, charmless, overheated city held together by Holiday Inns and Waffle Houses?
Hence the giant exhale when nothing terrible happens in a good place.
OK, that manly female gold shot putter from Belarus who was juiced, oops. But at least the news came after the circus had ended. Nor can the London Games be compared with the preceding 2008 Olympics in Beijing. China is not a free country. By a lot of people’s definition, nothing good can happen in a place like China, in sport or anything else.
Lessons to take away
So what have we learned from these London Games?
Per Phelps and sidekick Ryan Lochte: Olympic swimmers routinely pee in the pool.
USA women’s basketball is so dominant that it’s not fun to watch.
Medals are not the same. There are, for example, 40 golds given out in sailing, canoeing and rowing. There are two given out in soccer.
Medal counts by country are kind of stupid. There are 50 countries, out of more than 200, that win almost everything, about 15 that matter and only two — the U.S. and China — that dominate.
Corporations — through their sponsorship and endorsements — should have flags that winning athletes drape themselves in. Nike, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald’s have a lot more to do with some athletes’ success than their home countries.
The false good cheer and gushing over the token female ‘‘athlete’’ from certain strict Arab nations is smarmy, small-minded and dangerous.
No politician will ever match London mayor Boris Johnson’s lustrous description of female beach volleyball players ‘‘glistening like wet otters.’’
London, I’ll give you an A-/B+.
But where, dear queen, were the Rolling Stones?