James Lawton: Hoopla cannot hide the humbug and hypocrisy behind the London 2012 circus

The bid, however we dress it, was essentially a fraud. It came with the claim that it would be a gift to youth and that London was uniquely equipped for the task

Time, maybe, for a message to any pensive Englishmen and women, particularly if they are Londoners, who fear that any day now they will be hauled off the street and into a dark place if they don't make some gesture in support of the Olympics.

Perhaps, if they are desperate enough for inspiration, they could daub the five rings of the old Olympic circus on their foreheads. The advice here, though, is simple enough. Don't do it. Time is short, admittedly, now that we're one whole day and part of another short of a year before the start of London 2012, but experience gleaned from every summer Games since Montreal in 1976 insists there can be only one grown-up response to their third visit to these shores.

It is of ambivalence, great oodles of it. It is the knowing of what the Olympics can bring but also what they threaten.

Pride, yes, if London can match the performances of, say, Barcelona in 1992 and Sydney eight years later in celebrating both the style and beauty of their environments while also embracing with appropriate maturity the inevitable excitement which comes when the world's great athletes gather in vast numbers and you know the world is gazing in your direction.

But not, surely, if there is a legacy as bitter as those that came to Montreal, whose taxpayers still bemoan the cost, poor, maxed-out Athens and Atlanta, whose Games were described by the not notably unpatriotic Sports Illustrated magazine as no more than a shoddy bazaar.

London may come through beautifully, as Lord Coe, who rescued the Olympic bid out of deep and naive chaos, did in 1980 and 1984, when he was described by Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times as the "young Lord Byron of the track".

Yet whose heart doesn't sink at least to some degree when Coe bombards us wherever we turn with his belief that "sport" is bringing some kind of sublime deliverance to a run-down section of a great old city and the spirit of a jaded nation?

This is not Byronic. It is the purest hype, as are the inflated claims on behalf of the anticipated London legacy by such as the former Olympic minister Tessa Jowell.

Listen to Ms Jowell, as we will have to do with increasing frequency no doubt over the next 365 days, and you would never guess that many of the ratepayers of the Olympic borough of Newham, from the mayor down, are beginning to see the Olympics not as a saviour but a usurping monster.

Or that the promise of meaningful work apprenticeships is proving illusory. Or that crash-coaching courses for local youngsters will, in the opinion of youth workers, be without lasting significance. All this, of course, set against the question that is unlikely to go away: can a financially embattled nation really afford a £12bn diversion, especially when it is told at ever decreasing intervals that this is not a burden but a gift.

While the potentially heroic cyclist Victoria Pendleton tells us that nothing, absolutely nothing, matters to her more than a successful performance, some take a wider view. Unfortunately, though, this throws up the possibility of a collision with something bound to burrow down deeply against the accelerating hoopla.

It is the fact that London's winning bid, however we dress it, was essentially a fraud. It came with the claim that it would be a gift to youth, an opportunity to enhance its horizons and its physical health, and that somehow London was uniquely equippedfor the task.

Such Blair rhetoric came awkwardly from the prime minister of a government which, no less than its Conservative predecessors, had shamefully neglected the young people it now championed so enthusiastically in the glare of the television cameras. Thousands of volunteer coaches and their helpers across the land must have winced at the scale of the hypocrisy.

Paris, let's not forget, should have won the Olympic nomination by the length of the Champs Elysées. Why? Because while New Labour continued the scandal of selling off school playing fields, as English kids rose steadily in the world obesity league, France continued to invest in its young people.

It is why we should remember that in all the preening over the meeting of Olympic building schedules and the frenzy of investment in the Beijing British team after the successful 2012 bid, we remain so far below the standards of care and vision set by France and other leading European nations.

Drive through any town in France and the chances are you will see an Olympic sized swimming pool or running track. It is part of the culture, a right, an assumption still beyond the dreams of most young people here. When that changes, truly, we can talk of the glory of the London Olympics. Meanwhile, whatever Tessa and her mates say, we have no obligation to jump up and down.

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game