I've been trying to work out why I have been so ambivalent, at times antagonistic, towards the Olympic Games. Last night I realised that it was down to a mixture of envy and an overwhelming feeling of exclusion.
There were many agendas behind the staging of the Olympic Games in the UK, many of them noble but some of them merely opportunistic. I am certain that the British Government saw it as a way to reenact the Festival of Britain, to make the Brits feel good about themselves in a time of recession, unemployment and hardship. For millions of people this obviously worked. They were able to own the success of the British medal winners for themselves. I have been unable to do that. As far as I'm concerned it was the individual winners who won, not me, and this is where the envy kicks in. The winning line in my life was to become a parish priest. I trained hard for it and gave up the enjoyment of a "normal" life putting in the hours that becoming a good priest requires. But as I was running along the home stretch towards the finish I was tripped up by other "competitors" and fell flat on my face. Nobody would stop to pick me up, they were too worried that in doing so they would end up being disqualified by the "judges" themselves.
So now, when I see somebody winning I am unable to celebrate their achievement as I am just reminded of my own failure. This is probably the reason why I spent the last sixteen days feeling sorry for the losers. Last night, at the closing ceremony, I was disgusted that the medal winning athletes came into the stadium wearing their medals. I can't imagine what is needed to pick yourself up from failure, as I have been singularly unsuccessful in coping with my own failure, but I guess that it took a lot of guts for many of those competitors to go back into the stadium and party. They certainly must have had mixed emotions about it. To be constantly reminded of their failure by the winners showing off their medals so enthusiastically, must have hurt.
And it's the same for me with the meta-narrative of the Games. The message was "Britain is great." But it's not so great. I've experienced the nastiness and pettiness of its institutions, its old school tie networks, its class system and its cruel indifference to the failures in its midst. We have become a nation that is all about the success of the individual. The community spirit of the idealised Olympics is false. It exists no longer in my country. We have to be told by self-interested politicians when to behave like a community and, even then, they control how and where we are to do so. If we try to do it for ourselves they prosecute us, as the Law has taken away all our rights to spontaneous celebration. The London Olympics 2012 was not the Festival of Britain redux. Back in the early fifties there was hope. There is no hope today. We know that it will only be the rich who benefit from these Games and that all our Governments, no matter what their political claims, are now only interested in protecting bankers and their like at our expense. We know that they are prepared let ordinary working people suffer in their pursuit of big business happiness. Their promises mean nothing and even the easily fooled will soon forget their sporting achievements by proxy during the last two weeks.