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