There are only a certain number of once in a lifetime experiences a simple soul like the hippo can endure in a three month period. Only the most churlish would point out that from a metaphysical ontological perspective, birth and death are the only true once in a lifetime experiences. But, hey, let`s not spoil the party.
The torch comes to Walsall this weekend, not in the usual form of clearing inconvenient historic buildings, but as a symbol of all that is noble and heroic in the pursuit of sporting excellence. The Olympic Games are now less than a month away, or six weeks if you are the Home Secretary, or “what Olympic Games?” if you are the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, or the games that were not, no definitely not, in no way shape or form, not in a million years ever inherited from the previous government and Ken Livingston. Walsall can at last experience and celebrate the sweet smell of two-thirds propane and one-third butane without fearing the worst.
As with all significant and potentially planet changing moments in history, there can be serious emotional and psychological effects on those that witness such epoch defining epiphany. After watching some river boats on television, hearing Sir Elton John sing “I`m thtill thtanding” through layers of Botox and seeing the England football team loose on penalties, do the good people of Walsall have the cognitive inner strength to cope with yet another once in a lifetime experience? The very sight of some fire on a stick parading through the borough passed Tesco, Poundland and lots of vacant shops might induce hysteria and possibly fainting.
Not wishing to add to the cost of providing the trauma counselling that will be required following the outpourings of sheer joy, jubilation and profound patriotism that a cheese grater on fire available on EBay will provoke, your humble correspondent intended to stay away. The plan was to haul a grumpy bum up the garden armed with a flagon of Old Rosie Scrumpy, sit in the shed listening to Mahler and enjoy the thirty eight in a lifetime experience of reading George Orwell`s 1984. Sadly, the goblins and the elves that share the house have other ideas.
In spite of a thorough grounding in sceptical cynicism at home, the state educated progeny seem to have bought into the once in a lifetime marketing opportunity. It`s just a rumour that is going around school, pretty soon they`ll be handing out free, unlimited McDonalds and Coca-cola when the bandwagon hits town. Well, I ask you? No amount of clenched fist, bulging eyeball incredulity could dissuade them that a false promise of a free Big Mac was a once in a lifetime experience. “Come on, Dad,” they pleaded, “don`t spoil it”. At this point, any responsible blogger with an eye on advertising standards, competition law and the blatant use of product placement would add that other mechanically rendered meat product patties and E number packed sugar beverages are available. In this case, though, they are not. Looks like Old Rosie will not be allowed to see the torch.
It is certain that thousands of Walsall people will take enormous pleasure from the day and that will be down to the hard work, dedication, commitment and professionalism of council officers, the police, fire, ambulance and other public servants who, astonishingly, are having their pensions and even livelihoods torched. The day will go well and we owe them a debt of gratitude for some stunning organisational work. The fact that the International Olympic Committee and the body that is organising the torch relay and the sporting activities taking place in the capital city of the United Kingdom in the 12th year of the 21st century (one is not allowed to use the words London 2012 Olympic Games for fear of litigation) have recognised that Walsall is not in Poland is a small step forward in promoting the future of our dying town. This might explain the feverish activity of pot hole filling, drain cleaning, litter picking and general tidying up over the last few days that one might expect from a local council entrusted to provide adequate community services. If only we could arrange for a flaming torch every week. Not, however, the type of flaming torch that accompanies pitch forks when opposing wind turbines in Aldridge, the wrong type of Mosque or the outrageous proposal to open a nursery in Streetly. Regeneration, is seems, relies upon the torch.
It looks like the grumpy bum will witness the passing of the flame after all and, according to the intellectual giants that hide in the Walsall cabinet, enjoy the once in a lifetime experience of face painting, donkey rides in Bloxwich, having the car towed away and shelling out a fortune on Big Macs and Coca-cola. The advice is that the wearing of a Pepsi t-shirt, eating a Mr Sizzle lunch for a pound burger, taking a call from any other service provider other than BT, not using a Visa credit card or looking into a shop window that provides services from a non sponsor will result in an immediate arrest by the brand police on suspicion of terrorism. Well, I ask you?
On the day that we were told that the Prince of Wales received an increase of 11.8 per cent in his benefits, a man with multiple medical problems, denied support from the state and judged by a bogus private company as being fit for work set fire to himself outside a Job Centre in Selly Oak in Birmingham, we welcome the Olympic torch. It is interesting that the rich receive benefits but the poor and disadvantaged demand benefits. Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister was heckled by an employee of the company that will provide the sporting activities taking place in the capital city of the United Kingdom in the 12th year of the 21st century. Cameron`s response was swift, apposite and, for once, truthful. “Don`t spoil it, Sir. Don`t spoil it, Sir. This is not about politics, this is about Britain.”
Cameron was right. It is not about politics. It is about a Britain run by corporate interest, the greed of the elite, the power of brand advertising and the corruption at the highest levels of finance and government.
It has nothing to do with sport.