Olympic flame dims for disillusioned Londoners
After the ticketing fiasco comes the non-eco-friendly torch that looks like a cheesegrater
A little over a year until the 2012 London Games begin and for many Britons the Olympic flame is slowly being extinguished. When London was awarded the Games in July 2005 Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, waxed lyrical about making "the Olympic vision come true" and Dame Kelly Holmes, a double Olympic champion gushed: "The Olympic spirit is so powerful that anyone who has not experienced it doesn't know what's going to hit them."
How true, Dame Kelly. It started to go wrong this time last year when the official mascots for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games were released. Called Wenlock and Mandeville, the two one-eyed mascots left the public bemused as to what they were supposed to represent. As the Times commented, they "look like you could buy them from some Soho sex shop".
Then in December The Spectator published details of the staggering demands made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the British government in order that they have the honour of staging the Games.
First, some 40,000 hotel rooms have to be set aside in London for IOC members, foreign sports administrators and various other hangers-on. Out of that number, 700 IOC bigwigs must have a car and chauffeur available 24/7 while another 400 expect a pool car and driver. In addition Londoners must undergo "behaviour modification" during the Games because of the disruption that will be caused to their everyday lives. As for those Britons who actually intend going to watch the Games, IOC rules forbid them from "wearing clothes or accessories with commercial messages other than the manufacturer's brand name."
Mind you, what with the way the tickets have been allocated how many Britons will actually be present at the Games remains to be seen. One million of the 1.8m people in the UK who applied for tickets failed in the ballot and the lack of transparency in the allocation resulted in the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, admitting he was "cheesed off" with the system while Consumer magazine Which? adding its voice to the growing chorus of disapproval by calling the ticketing system "farcical".
In contrast to the struggles faced by Joe Public, eight per cent of tickets of have been reserved for corporate hospitality with some claims that at the showpiece finals around 60 per cent of the seats will be corporate.
Speaking on the BBC yesterday, Sebastian Coe, chairman of Games organisers Locog, defended the allocation saying: "The corporates in large part pay for the Games... probably collectively contributing about £1.5bn to what we're actually doing."
The fact that Coe is on the defensive illustrates the extent to which the British public has falled out of love with the Olympics; and their mood wasn't improved yesterday when the official torch for relaying the Olympic flame the length of Britain was revealed. Its triangular design contains 8,000 holes, one for each of the runners who will bear the torch on its journey across Britain. Unfortunately the Daily Telegraph feels its designs resembles a cheesegrater more than a torch. The Guardian, meanwhile, is fretting over the fact that it's not a low carbon torch despite a promise made by the Games' organisers that it would be the first eco-friendly torch in Olympic history.
But then as Britons are discovering, there is increasingly little that's friendly about the 2012 Olympics. ·
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