We can enjoy the Olympics but trouble waits behind the gloss

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Opinion digest: under the Olympic gloss, how to enjoy sport, and the Treasury problem

LAST UPDATED AT 11:33 ON Fri 27 Jul 2012

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BENEATH OLYMPIC GLOSS WE ARE A TROUBLED NATION
POLLY TOYNBEE ON THE GAMES DIVERSION
The eyes of the world are on us, says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Naturally we hope for a stupendous Olympic opening, followed by weeks of brilliant games: "It's paid for now and the investment in national pride needs to pay off." But what will they make of us? Peel back the £9bn Olympic veneer and we're a troubled nation - "the world's test-bed for the self-destructive futility of austerity". Our GDP figures are disastrous, there's a widening disparity between rich and poor, a reduced police force and a faltering NHS. In bars or bus stops, there's an anger boiling just beneath the surface. "Let's hope our Olympic spectators go home saying Britain can still put on a good show." But the visitors who look behind the stage set "will surely expect Cameron's government to be gone at the next election for gross incompetence on every front – social, political and economic".

GIVE SPORT A CHANCE. YOU MIGHT EVEN ENJOY IT
SIMON BARNES ON THE JOY OF SPORT
Even if you're not a sports fan, this might be the moment to give sport a chance, says Simon Barnes in The Times. You can like sport even if you're an intellectual, a woman, gay or a combination of the above. "Just because stupid people like sport, doesn't mean clever people can't." That's true of many things: sex for example. Sport can bring "unscripted drama of the most thrilling kind" because sport is performed with great seriousness. It's about excellence, and at some levels, magic. Think of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. It is also beautiful. Here are the world's finest bodies in motion, in all their amazing biodiversity, doing what they were made for. Yes, sport is pointless, but that's the point. The next two weeks will bring tales of joy and disaster. Like art, it shows us how to enjoy or endure life, and none of it really matters. Which is precisely why it matters.

THE TREASURY NEEDS A NEW ENGINE
LORD OAKESHOTT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH
After this week's grim GDP figures, the British economy looks like an old steam train struggling up the hill, says Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott in The Guardian. "George Osborne, the driver, is doing his best but there's just not enough coal in the firebox, the train's lost momentum," and it's sliding back down the hill. "We need two massive growth locomotives, called housing and banking, with a new team on the footplate to stop the slide." We need a bold plan A+. This involves making banks lend, especially RBS, which the government owns. We poured more than £70bn of taxpayers' money into RBS and Lloyds, and they should see some return. We also need a firm government commitment to create 500,000 new jobs in construction by doing whatever it takes to build 100,000 more homes a year. The Treasury has been the blockage, now it must "do whatever it takes to get the finance flowing again to British business".

OSBORNE'S BOND WITH THE PM WILL PROTECT HIM
BRUCE ANDERSON ON THE GEORGE/DAVE RELATIONSHIP
Economic adversity breeds political adversity, says Bruce Anderson in The Daily Telegraph. There is a lot of unhappiness in David Cameron's party. The disgruntled are looking for a target, and many of them think that they have found one in George Osborne. Quite a few Tories would like to replace the Chancellor. But the relationship between Cameron and Osborne is a strong one, based on a friendship of 20 years. Cameron read economics at university, Osborne history. "The two men's views are creatively complementary, not dramatically divergent." A bit more divergence might even be a good thing. "The same height and the same age, from similar backgrounds, both drawn towards similar dark-blue suits: it is as if they both came from Smoothachusetts." Osborne's critics will carp in vain. The only reply they will elicit from the Prime Minister is: "We are both in this together." · 

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