All dressed up

Mcdonalds advertisement hoarding at St Pancras station

Dressed up by Mcdonalds at St Pancras Station

It was four years ago now, but I have a fuzzy memory of sitting in a glass-walled cube of a room at Richmond College listening to representatives from the South London Boroughs discuss what they had learnt from the Beijing Olympics. I was standing in for someone but I learnt a lot. I can’t swear to it, but I have a feeling that they were talking about the way the Chinese “dressed” the city. Everywhere you went you knew you were reminded of the Games.

An international flag on the South Bank Centre's wonderful urban garden - that wasn't there before!

An international flag on the South Bank Centre’s wonderful urban garden – that wasn’t there before!

This might have been where olympification came from – I knew it would happen.  I knew that sooner or later everything would be olympified. Well, now it is. This is the summer when the  Union Jack has officially been rehabilitated – no longer the emblem of domination, a not-so-subtle warning that a member of the extreme right wing is in residence, it is now a signifier of UK (non-political) party time. And such a snazzy design.

Union Jacks (I don’t think we even call it that any more – but I like it, it makes me feel nautical) have been up since the Jubilee. Now they are joined by the most tasteful Olympic bunting. Last year we had the world’s longest stretch of bunting adorning the South Bank for the Festival of Britain’s 60th Anniversary. This year we have bunting everywhere.

A week or so ago, I took the bus to Kingston and passed by bunting at New Malden – not on the usual London tourist map, unless you like Korean food. Actually, they seemed to be having a Korean food festival. Good news for the Korean team camped at Brunel University, and, of course, their fans.

Arriving at Kingston, I was amazed at how well the 2012 theme fitted in with the ancient market square.

Olympics in Kingston

Further south on holiday, I found bunting draped around the historic cinque port of Rye on the Kent/Sussex border. If you can blend in there, where they boast of pubs being rebuilt in the 1400s, I think you can say you’ve done  a good job.

Bunting in Rye

In this remote spot, we didn’t find any bunting, but we did come across a BT Olympics advertisement.

Just in case you thought you got away from the Olympics

This picturesque view of Britain in the run up to the Olympics is somewhat tempered by all the news of G4S’s calamitous handling of the security contract for the Olympics. Now, instead of providing valuable employment to hundreds of people, the armed forces will be frisking people as they enter the Olympic Park.

This may give London not so much a cute bunting feel, as that of a military dictatorship. At a time of such high unemployment, it seems such a shame to me for those people looking forward to working at the Olympics that they miss out on the opportunity. The squaddies already have a job. They could probably do with a break. This seems like such a pattern these days, those that have work have to do so much more they are at breaking point. Those that have not get blamed for being unemployed. I would be very cross if I was one of the people G4S recruited then didn’t communicate with, with reports of people “not turning up for work”. Can we learn from this that we need to treat employees properly? I wonder.


Advertising Olympics

It really has started. Everywhere I go I am faced with commercial messages with an Olympics theme. Ascending the escalator at Waterloo station, I was greeted with massive images of British athletes bearing down on me. Switching on the TV, every advert seems to have an Olympic message. I was brought up short on Sunday morning by a hoarding displaying the British Airways message “Don’t fly”. For a moment there I thought I was being commanded by the government to stay home to support Team GB. But of course they don’t do that anymore. These days “tongue-in-cheek” propagandist sentiments are in the purvey of the advertising campaign manager. What a strange world we live in.

I cannot decide whether my resentment at being told what to do is magnified or decreased by the knowledge that BA doesn’t really care as long as we maximise their profits for the longest duration.

Don’t fly now because we’re going to get  enough passengers.

And if you could just extend the Olympics magic for us long after the games with your postponed holiday plans, that would be fantastic.

Go Team GB!

Olympic Oil

With BP and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill back in the news as the trial opens in New Orleans to judge who was responsible for the worst offshore oil spill in US history, it appears that it is not only me that has been wondering about the legitimisation of all these, frankly dubious, companies by the Olympics. There have been protests, says The Guardian, over the suitability of the oil company to be a major sponsor of London 2012:

Olympics organisers have come under attack from environmentalists, artists, indigenous people’s leaders and development groups over the position of BP as an official partner in the games.

There has been subvertising and everything!

Every time I see one of those adverts, I think “that is so wrong”. Jessica Ennis running through the sands – fuelled not by BP but by her breakfast. But what’s that scary green bubble following her like the white ball in The Prisoner? Just BP reminding us that there’s nothing like an oil company to mess up a good beach.

And if that’s not bad enough, in this ad the hurdler doesn’t just need a BP powered Olympic car – he actually is the car! He has an engine for a heart and BP oil in his veins. Fantastic.