Will Self: PsychoGeography

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The Independent Online

By bicycle to the Royal Society of Arts in the Adam Brothers' Adelphi for a debate on whether the 2012 Olympics will be "good" for London. The panel assembled in the Great Room under James Barry's awesome series of six paintings, an allegorical depiction of The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture. In one of the canvases Barry has Orpheus subduing the savage Thracians with his lyre; in another angels present an orrery to Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Copernicus; in a third Thomas More, Cato and Socrates debate the fundamentals of philosophy in an Elysian field. The culmination of the series depicts still more angels incensing (in the sense of wafting incense towards Him, not winding Him up) the Creator.

Soon enough it was the panel that were getting wound up. Myself, Andrew "Dodgy Dossier" Gilligan, Lordy-Lordling Seb Coe, Tessa "Sign-Without-Reading" Jowell and Kate Hoey, the Member for Lambeth. It's difficult to conceive of a group of people less representative of the progress of human knowledge and culture; rather, we seemed a tableaux-barely-vivante illustrating the notion of its irreversible decline. An impression only heightened when the Minister for the Olympics kicked off the debate by reading a prepared statement that trumpeted the main benefit of the Games to London as the construction of a shopping mall in Stratford that will be "as big as Bluewater".

Oh, and she also flagged up the notion that the Games would celebrate London's diversity, and inspire its yoof to take up running, jumping and three-day-eventing in unprecedented numbers. Yes, after 2012 there will be no more obese couch potatoes sucking on Turkey Twizzlers, no more nihilistic knife crime, no more hanging out in the park smoking spliffs rolled up from old Lottery scratch cards – just clean-limbed young Olympians of all ethnicities, happily shopping together before a spot of afternoon dressage.

If it wasn't all so absurd it would've been pitiful. As it was, Gilligan and myself did our best to inject a note of scepticism, while Kate Hoey – although a card-carrying Olympian herself – quietly stressed the ways the current boondoggle is already failing London's impoverished children, who're crying out not for ice hockey rinks or velodromes but simply somewhere to play football, or take a swim.

I thought our side was getting the best of it, especially since Tessa Jowell was intent on patronising me, by patting me as if I were a humanoid horse – but not a bit of it. The coup de grâce came from Coe, who gave an impassioned peroration about how he, as an ordinary schoolboy, was inspired to become a world champion by watching the Olympics on TV. "What," I snarled incredulously, "and you mean to suggest that this is something that any one of us could've achieved?"

"Absolutely," countered the Lordling, to the accompaniment of the audience's enthusiastic approbation. It was then that I realised how badly I had misjudged things; I assumed that everyone beyond a certain age reached the realisation that while most can enjoy a certain level of fitness and ludic expertise, there are only an elect few who are naturals. Anyone can row a boat round the Serpentine, but it takes a lunk like Steve Redgrave to both want – and have the necessary musculature – to paddle up Mount Olympus. How wrong I was! There, under the stoic gaze of Copernicus and Orpheus sat the adipose, the balding and the corseted – in a few words: a representative bunch of mostly middle-aged, middle class, desk jockeys. Yet all of them nursed within their sclerotic hearts the dream that even now they might end up with a tasteless medallion.

I left the RSA shaking my head with disbelief and cycled across the West End to Greek Street, where at a club called the Green Carnation I read from my novel Dorian to an enthusiastic crowd of native Polari speakers. Later on I cycled to China China on Gerrard Street for a restorative meal of hot and sour soup, pork rice and Chinese vegetables. It was only as I reached home that it occurred to me that I'd spent an entire evening celebrating London's diversity, getting fit into the bargain, and it'd only cost £15.60 instead of the £10bn being spunked-off on dreams of Olympian perfection.

Then, this morning, I received this image (above) from Ralph. Uncannily, years of working on PsychoGeography have gifted us with telepathic powers, for this is clearly Sebaceous Jowl, Lord of Olympus. Note its screaming papal mouth spouting Reaganomic nationalism; mark also its exposed gastric system within which blue and red ideological fluids commingle to produce Olympic bubbles that float downwind; and recognise in particular, that while it has the stance of a great athlete, in reality it's nothing but a rotting cadaver.

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