Fanning the flame

I had thoroughly intended to ignore the passing of the Olympic Torch through my home town.  Partly because I was expecting to be at a band practice, and partly because I’m supremely unfussed about the Olympics (and indeed most sporty stuff).  Add to that a general disgruntlement with the huge mental and ethical disconnect between the “spirit of the Olympics” and the rather more prosaic corporate sponsorship and money-hovering of the IOC/LOCOG and, well, it wasn’t really my thing.

Events, however, conspired against me.

When the day came around, band practice was cancelled, and we had some friends staying with us.  Friends who came complete with little people.  And one-off occasions such as Olympic Torch Relays are the kind of thing you’re almost obliged to ensure little people get to see.   So off we trooped.

I’d like to say the whole thing changed my mind and won me round.  Unfortunately it didn’t – or at least, not entirely.

The local guys hyping the crowd did a pretty good job, but the whole thing was, well, just a little bit lack lustre.  Trying to whip up a carnival atmosphere is all well and good, but when the carnival is a couple of coaches, three sponsorship buses bigging up corporate toss in the face of the profoundly indifferent, all followed by a few seconds of someone actually jogging past with the thing we’ve all come to see, it’s a bit of an uphill struggle.   So yeah, it was precisely as depressing and underwhelming as I’d feared.

What did surprise me, however, was that I came away rather poignantly yearning for what it could have been.  If, instead of an over-hyped few hundred yards with a bus full of spare torches all put together in order to give Coca-Cola, Samsung and LloydsTSB their promo opportunities, it had actually been people running a genuine relay, handing on the same torch/flame (albeit in a “this is the best axe I’ve ever had” sense) and covering some serious distance, with just a small support team and no corporate stuff … if it had been that, it would actually have been quite inspiring.     So in retrospect, I’m going to try and think about it in those terms, and not worry about who’s the most cynical – me, or the sponsors/IOC/LOCOG.  I must be getting old, I’m looking for the bright side …