Capital capital

Fundamental criticism of next year’s Olympic Games in London is regarded in some quarters as a near-treasonable offence, such is the control over the message wielded by that Bond-villainesque body known as LOCOG. Picture millionaire villain-in-chief (Lord) Sebastian Coe, with white cat in lap, and the UK’s senior politicians in pocket.

It was heartening to see the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight tackle the issue this week with an excellent report and studio discussion. No politician or other sports ‘stakeholder’ would dare have a go at the very basis for holding the Olympic Games in London. On a national level this is left to cultural critics, and in the community to citizen groups battle-hardened through years of taking on council planners and commercial concerns riding roughshod over local feelings.

Newsnight being a UK-wide current affairs programme, it is celebrity writers and the like who bat for the national olympic opposition. Novelist and psycho-geographer Ian Sinclair is one such notable. Sinclair’s appreciation of London’s landscape and people chimes with my own experience over several decades, and I find little to fault with his criticism of the Olympics. I may be in a minority, however, as in cultural circles it is currently open season for Sinclair bashing, and fashionable to deride in haughty tones the writer’s psycho-geographic essays as being inferior to his fiction.

Another critic of the London Olympics is the writer Will Self, whose cultural criticism never fails to delight me. Self is a national treasure, and I only wish that he appeared more often on the devil’s lightbox. Take, for example, Self’s performance this week on Newsnight, in which he took on in debate the veteran Labour hack Tessa Jowell, and Welsh athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson…

With his comment on capital always having to find things to do with itself, and the Olympics being a creation of capital for the capital city, Self had the subject nailed right from the start, and in the debate Self had Jowell nailed to the wall. I most likely couldn’t manage my way out of a paper bag, but like our friend Mr Self, I’m sure I could generate more than a paltry 10,000 temporary jobs given a pot of £8 billion to spend.

See also LOCOG – the inside story.