James Lawton: Vain search for Olympic commitment

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The Independent Online

How do we categorise those worthy campaigners for the London Olympics? Fantasists? Would-be names on some future Honours List? Or sport's equivalent of the Band of Hope?

Having heard Radio Five's Gary Richardson relentlessly grill the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, in a vain search for something which might just pass for even a hint of true government commitment, I have to go for the Band of Hope.

There is a fundamental fact about the realities of Olympic bidding – one underpinned by the triumphs of Seoul, Barcelona and Sydney and the disaster of Atlanta. It is that any attempt to land the Games without wholehearted government backing is an absolute waste of time and money and dreams.

Three times Richardson asked Jowell if Tony Blair had in their meetings expressed a breath of enthusiasm for the project – and three times we heard a litany of obfuscation. As always, there were more questions than answers. The main one: do politicians now jump so violently in their own skin they cannot even say what they would like to happen for desperate fear that it might not come to pass? Which begs another question: Is this what now passes for stewardship of a nation's random yearnings?

Whatever the cause, the government's posture is quite pathetic. The Band of Hope, God bless them, might be wise to put the tambourines to more productive work.