There was an old codger called, I think, Samaranch, who ran the Olympics racket a few years ago who was said to expect to be treated with the ceremonial and deference due a Head of State whenever he made an imperial progress around the world. Nothing very much has changed, it seems.
The Times today tells us of the breath-taking scale of the demands for gas-guzzling limos that is being made for the Olympics Nomenklatura to effect their egress to and from the various venues for 2012, the smart restaurants, the banks, nightclubs and brothels of London. Three thousand, one hundred and forty five of them, no less, will be needed to ensure that transport appropriate to the importance and dignity of such as the 110 IOC members, 400 presidents and secretary-generals from the Olympic committees of the 200 competing nations and 450 senior executives from corporate sponsors and other hangers-on. In addition special settings for traffic-lights will be installed and dedicated lanes set aside for the swift transit of these swells to their fun.
Thus will London come to resemble not, as the plan is, a modern 21st Century City but rather Moscow in the 1970s or Pyong-Yang today. The smog element may well be the same too.
As you might imagine the contract for the provision of this extreme largesse is meant to be a secret. The last thing our masters want is for us to think that, instead of a wonderful festival of sport, the Olympics of 2012 is going to be an elitist gathering at a ‘Who has Got the Best Chemist?’ contest. So members of the Greater London Authority have been told that they can only see the contract if they sign up to a confidentiality agreement, something which seems to be the norm these days when you want to some disgraceful set of facts to be kept from the public gaze, as we recently saw with the EU Parliament Snouts in the Trough episode (for the latest upon which, see Bruno Waterfield).
We were made all sorts of promises when the process of bidding was underway about how much improved public transport would be. If it is going to be so wonderful, why cannot all these minor functionaries be made to do what the rest of us will have to do: travel by public transport? Or, heaven forfend, by Shank’s Pony?
This will not happen, of course, because, with all the money that is swilling around this enterprise, one of the sponsors is bound to want his pound of flesh and thus will ensure these minor nobodies get their fortnight of chauffeur-driven glory. It makes the EU look almost restrained by comparison. Not for nothing will the definition of ‘The Olympic Movement’ henceforth be : “that act by which the right hand replaces the moolah-stuffed wallet in the jacket pocket”.
Mind you, we should remember who, between slugs of whisky, made many of the promises: none other than everyone’s favourite Lizard, one Ken Livingstone. It will be interesting to see just how many of his promises come unstuck.
The only pleasure that I shall get from this ghastly business will have been the look on the face of the French delegation when they realised they had been outbid (often literally) for the games by the UK.
But by 2012 and ten billion pounds later, the joke will have worn rather thin.