A torch, a procession and a glimmer of excitement

If you follow me on twitter you may have seen me occasionally expressing disappointment in the way certain aspects of the London Olympics are being handled.


Mostly, I find it distasteful that the corporate sponsors of the event have such a stranglehold on things. From the removal of beverages that aren’t owned by Coca-Cola from swathes of London while the games take place, to the last minute decision to re-route the torch procession to avoid St James’s Park (the football ground in Newcastle upon Tyne) because there were advertising boards bearing the names and logos of businesses that weren’t official Olympic sponsors.


There are restrictions in place regarding non-sponsors being able to advertise on billboards during the games that mean LOCOG (the committee in charge of organising the London games) has had to buy up loads of advertising space in order to control what appears. I have no idea how much that has cost, nor how that is funded, but surely even the most ardent fan of the Olympics can’t possibly think that is a right and proper way for things to be done.


The torch itself doesn’t exactly sit well with me either.


When did the torch first become part of the Olympic paraphernalia…?


At the Berlin games of 1936. Yes, that’s right the year Hitler tried to use the Olympics as a massive Nazi propaganda vehicle. The torch fitted in with the love of ceremony the Third Reich’s architects had.


I remember the Olympics as an exciting sporting spectacle that had us all glued to our TVs when I was a boy. Sporting excellence was all that seemed to matter. It doesn’t feel like that any more.


Athletes are no longer the plucky amateurs they once were, either. And is it me, or are police officers starting to look younger these days..?


The sight of the Olympic torch being borne around the UK (and, bizarrely, Ireland too – it’s a different country) by a cross section of the population, or wounded service personnel, or ordinary people who have done extraordinary things, is one thing. But when celebrities started getting involved, the whole thing started to look like a circus.


In a couple of days’ time, the Olympic torch passes close to my house. My youngest son, having been learning about the Olympics at school recently, is very excited and wants to see it.


So I’ll take him.


And I’ll hope that some of the wonder and excitement rubs off on me too. Because, for all that I think the excesses of commercialisation have tainted the Olympics, well… it’s still the Olympics, right?