Viv Groskop: Don't honour Olympians just for doing their job. Except one


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A report by a group of MPs has concluded that too many people are receiving honours just for doing their jobs. It's weird. In the olden days, that was what money was for. But I guess there isn't as much of that around as there used to be. So now we have to reward people in other ways.

The Public Administration Selection Committee described the honours list selection process as "opaque" and "mysterious". It hinted that too many celebrities and civil servants are getting honours just for being celebrities and civil servants. "We believe that no one should be honoured for simply 'doing the day job', no matter what that job is," said Bernard Jenkin, the committee chairman and Conservative MP.

He could have gone so much further. If anything, anyone rich and famous offered an "honour" should be forced to confer it on someone who is not rich and famous. Sadly, that's not offered as an option. No, this year all anyone cares about is the Olympians. Are they all going to get honoured? If not, why not? They're heroes! Someone honour them!

There are already signs that there is going to be some sort of national outcry if all 43 gold medallists aren't given special titles. (At the moment, there's a limit on numbers.) The offices of David Cameron and Boris Johnson have leaked indications that it is both politicians' "personal wish" that each gold medallist be recognised. It's obviously seen as a vote-winner.

Under the current system, the committee responsible for awarding honours to sports people is also only allowed to make one medal winner a knight or a dame. But up to four civil servants can receive a knighthood. This is amusing. You have to choose one person out of 43 Olympic gold medallists to be the best. But you are allowed to have four heroes of the Treasury. The whole thing is like something out of Blackadder: comical, antiquated elitism.

The committee is right to point out that honours are at their best when they recognise the extraordinary achievements of people we've never heard of. Actually, it didn't point that out in so many words. But it should have done. When Olympians win, they are just doing their job and they get their reward and in two types of gold (medals and money).

Surely, with the Olympics, we were finally celebrating achievement and excellence rather than celebrity and fame for its own sake? The best way to honour that legacy would be to ensure that plaudits go to people who have achieved incredible things but who would otherwise not be rewarded for them. It's not a difficult list to draw up: midwives, nurses, transport workers, teachers, community activists, anyone in the Olympics Opening Ceremony who did not feature in the footage and must be very annoyed that there is no proof they were actually there...

Meanwhile, the only Olympian who ticks the "above and beyond the call of duty" box is Mo Farah. Winning gold medals is his day job and he won't want to get honoured just for that. But what he does deserve an award for is his services to triumphalist interpretative dance. No one made him do the second letter of YMCA. That was extra. He gave us that for free. Make this man Overlord of the Universe. Or at least give him an MBE. Mobot of the British Empire.

A Jumpin' Jack newsflash

Finally, a chance at some Satisfaction! Start Me Up! Paint all your red doors black in reverse psychological jubiliation! The Stones are in Paris recording a new album!

Earlier this year, Keith Richards told Rolling Stone (the magazine, not one of his friends) that they've been practising old stuff on and off for a while: "It was like playing in the garage, a maintenance check." How exciting. Or, as it says on their Facebook page, which I like to think Keith personally updates: "Exciting news coming soon".

But how soon? The difficulty with all these rumblings is the small matter of a moment in time which has already passed. But then I suppose that with a combined age of 274 you are not going to remember what day it is. Let alone the actual date of your much-anticipated 50th anniversary. Which was well over a month ago. "Jumpin' Jack Flash, where did I put that calendar, man?"