When the procedures for selecting the Olympic torchbearers were announced, we expressed concern that local heroes and charity fundraisers might lose out to those with no particular distinction other than patronage by major sponsors. Regrettably, those fears seem not to have been misplaced. While some companies say they allocated their places only to staff and others associated with charity work, other big companies appear to have been less demanding, in some cases arming their nominees with almost identikit CVs.
We recognise the need for generous corporate sponsorship, without which the modern Olympic Games would not be possible, and great efforts were made to ensure that the torch would be seen in every corner of the UK. But if commercial might squeezes out grassroots enthusiasm, something is lost. The fleet of a thousand that made up Sunday's jubilee regatta was the result of a massive volunteer effort; the street parties and Big Lunches ditto. That is not possible for the Olympics, but there needs to be a balance, and that balance needs to be right.