On the eve of the day when the eyes of the world descend on my little backwater of a country, I have to say, and I don't think I'm sticking my neck out too far here, that I'm a fan of the Olympic Games. What's more, I'm a fan of them being held here in Britain. But, there are a few things that I ought to say on the subject.
I remember the day in July 2005 when the surprising announcement came through that the host city for the 2012 Games would be London. Surprising because I thought that the rest of the world was pretty fed up with us, that no-one votes for us anymore. Perhaps it was a conspiracy, and they all just wanted a really good laugh. I remember thinking that it would be a great thing, that we would put on a very good Games, but that they would have to be very British in character. And they will be. That has already been shown. But the Games could very easily become a sideshow to wonderful, endearing British incompetence.
It seems that the first thing the organising committee did was to recruit some incredibly unsuitable partner organisations. I refuse to mention them here, because their names just won't flow from my fingers and I despise them with all my heart. But, for those of you who probably don't already know, their number includes world-dominating, loathsome companies like a crass and obscene burger-peddling outfit beginning with 'Muck', and a drinks manufacturer of dark brown sludge sold in cans and bottles with a swirly red design on them. I can't help thinking how incompatible those brands are with a sporting event. They market obesity like a disease across the entire globe and poisonously taint absolutely everything they come into contact with. And, and there's more, if they were British I might just have been able to see the connection, but they're not, and all we are doing as a nation is filling their coffers with yet more money to destroy rain forests and rot people's lives. After all, they wouldn't be doing it otherwise.
Again, I have to emphasise that I'm a fan of the Games, but I do have some cynicism. I bet you find that hard to believe. The Olympic torch relay (sorry, I should say, 'The [insert name of sticky drinks manufacturer here] Olympic torch relay') began its journey through our green and pleasant rain-sodden land some weeks ago. Within a few days of the start, it came through Taunton. I didn't hang around with the crowds, but I did watch its arrival at the cricket ground, carried by a young deaf boy who had been through a lot and was having a chance to shine and smile, on the television with joy and a tear in the eye. Even though, just before, I was completely bewildered as to who the hell the American bloke, apparently called Will I Am, was and what the hell he was doing carrying the torch through a town he'd, very obviously, never even heard of before. Surely there were much more deserving people, who had been turned away, than him, whoever the hell he was.
Then, more recently, there has been the security fiasco. It always astonishes me that they put important things like that out to tender. Companies bid for the job and, of course, the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder (in this case some conglomerate called G4S), the one that is charging the least for their services and the one that is therefore most likely to cut corners. Little more than a week before the opening ceremony it became apparent that G4S couldn't handle the job they'd taken on. No-one was turning up where and when they were supposed to and the establishment had to step into the breach to pander to the kind of security paranoia prevalent in certain other countries I could mention.
Then last night, on the first day of actual competition, at a football match between the women's teams of North Korea and Colombia, some idiot used the South Korean flag instead of the North Korean one in the players' introductions on the massive scoreboard. Of all the mistakes to make...and of all the countries for it to happen to. If it had been the British team and the French flag had been shown by their names, everyone would have had a good laugh and forgotten all about it. Understandably, the Korean (North) players walked off the pitch and it took over an hour to placate them and get the whole slideshow sorted out. If that's the level of entertainment we're going to get over the next couple of weeks, the conspiracy of why we got to host the Games in the first place is really going to be examined in detail. And, of course, the person who actually made the cock up is probably already on their way to see their Koreas Advisor - something that would have been helpful to have happened a couple of days ago.
On a more personal note, there is something that's irritating me already. It's only a little thing, but I think it matters a lot. Sorry to be boring about this but I feel very strongly. The country I live in is called 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. It is usually shortened to 'United Kingdom' or 'UK'. The UK is made up of the big island that holds the nations of England, Scotland and Wales, their offshore smaller islands, various other small self-determining islands around and about (who are especially invited along to play if they have someone who might just stand a chance of winning a medal) and Northern Ireland. Yet, for some reason I completely fail to understand, they are being known right across the media, by many of the athletes themselves and the organisers of the Games, as 'Team GB'. That is so insulting if you don't happen to come from the big island, but are still part of the team. And it's just extremely annoying if you have to hear it over and over and over and over again. It would serve them right if all the athletes from Northern Ireland (and there are quite a few) suddenly said, 'Sod that for a game of soldiers, I'm going to move my allegiance to the Republic instead.'
In fact, a lot of the terminology used around these Games is already pissing me off. There is an army of wonderful volunteers who are helping to steward, to look after the teams from all over the world, to act as drivers and guides and generally help things run as smoothly as British organisation will allow. I'm sure they would be delighted to know that their voluntary services are being recognised, that respect is due to the time they are giving up to be part of something very special. If that's the case, why aren't they being called 'Volunteers', I don't think that's unreasonable. Instead they are being called, and I hate this corporate, sycophantic marketing speak with all my being, 'Games Makers'. How sickening is that? And they're being supplied with a sponsor's footwear to be abused in.
I will spare you my anger on nouns like 'medal' and 'podium' being turned into verbs, and I don't even want to get started on whatever the hell the 'Olympic Family' is, or why they have their own lanes on the roads around the country, forcing everyone else into delicious traffic jams. Though I may come back to them all in a few days when I've had the last shreds of my sanity stripped away.
As I say, I'm a fan of the Games, I can't wait for it all to kick off properly. Apparently the opening ceremony will be an incredible show, and I'm looking forward to that so much. I'll probably shed another tear or two when a cheer goes up for New Zealand, for tiny East Timor and, of course, the host country, but I'm also cringing and waiting for the next cock up to happen.
We enjoy this stuff but we just don't do it very well. World, oh dear wider world, you have been warned.