As the 2012 Olympics draw near, our London correspondent will be filing semi-regular dispatches on life, culture, and Sport from the Big Smoke.
LONDON—In The Guardian today, famous British author, epic hiker, drug abuser, quiz show contestant, zombie understudy, and effortless crank Will Self (who once described his face as looking "like a bag full of genitals") has taken the announcement of his inexplicable appointment as Professor of Stuff at London's Brunel University as a platform to let us all know that he thinks the Olympics "suck dogshit through a straw." Actually, his full opinion was:
I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw. People believe they encourage da yoof to take up running, jumping and fainting in coils—but this is nonsense. They're a boondoggle for politicians and financiers ... The stadia themselves are a folly. The new Westfield is a temple to moribund consumerism—in 10 years' time they'll all be cracked and spalled; a Hitlerian mass of post-pomo nonsense.
Strong words from a man who is perhaps jealous that he was overlooked for Britain's racewalking team. Nonetheless, Self's is merely the most scatological in a swelling host of voices expressing contempt for The Greatest Sports Event in Human History. There are the standard objections: corporate sponsorship, mutilation of historic neighborhoods, a monumentally lame logo that cost £400,000 to design:
But critics have also been outraged by recent revelations that, along with the rest of us, emergency vehicles will generally not have access to the network of central London roads being designated as VIP lanes this summer. And Locog, the private committee responsible for organizing the games, has conducted the distribution of tickets to specific events through a lottery system that's been about as transparent as the plot of a David Lynch flick. The message to ordinary Londoners and Olympic fans seems to be that we better stay the hell out of the way and try not to have medical emergencies when all the nice rich people come to town.
This classism is being laid on a populace that hasn't exactly been notable for keeping calm and carrying on in recent times. Indeed, the games will correspond precisely with the one year anniversary of the riots that consumed several neighborhoods in London last year. Can we expect a reunion tour from balaclava-clad youths with a lust for designer sneakers? Maybe not. But the government's stance on the disturbances of last August seems to be that the commoners have gotten it out of their systems and are ready to behave. That's hardly reassuring.
Stephen McGregor is our 2012 Olympics correspondent. He lives in Camberwell, South London, where he's been working on something big for a long time.