When news happens, text KENEWS and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Comment: The Olympic Torch relay will cost a lifetime to pay off
11:42am Thursday 5th July 2012 in Opinion
I start with two disclaimers. For children and all those who steered the flame through this area – the passing of the Olympic torch will live long in the memory. I respect this.
I also qualify my opinion with another mention. It’s impossible to talk about the Olympics without remembering the late South Lakeland District Council leader Coun Brendan Jameson.
I hope he was up there somewhere, watching all his relentless hard work come to fruition.
Nothing that I say here aims to undermine that work or those who took something from the torch passing through the area.
So let’s get to my point. My cynicism boils down to this: never has so much been made of so little.
A once in a lifetime event that’ll cost a lifetime to pay off. But behold the Emperor’s New Clothes.
We waited for 45 minutes opposite Kendal College to watch the flame pass.
It took three seconds and was gone. The sporty, white-haired gentleman carrying it looked genuinely triumphant. And, erm, that was it.
His brief jog past had been preceded by the kind of noisy mass cavalcade of squad cars and out-riding motorcyclists usually reserved for the arrival of the President of the United States.
This was ‘The Met Police Torch Security Team,’ all the way from London.
Hand-picked from over 600 officers who applied for the job of protecting the flame on the relay route (or a few weeks driving about avoiding real police work, as some cynics might suggest.) As well as having a specially-made uniform for the occasion (grey shirts and trousers with a gold logo), this reportedly ‘70-strong security force,’ was directed by the ‘National Olympic Security Co-Ordinator Assistant Commissioner,’ no less.
The lucky ‘picker-upper’ of the tab for all this razzmatazz, is you and I, dear reader. The Olympic security budget is a reported £600 million. Which is part of the larger £9.3 billion (that’s £9,300,000,000) budget allocated to the Olympics as a whole.
And you thought this was the era of austerity! The issue is this country can no longer do anything with prudence or understated sophistication.
Blazing ahead of the torch was a convoy of huge, slogan-plastered Olympic tour buses. Following these were enormous coaches pushing the global super-brands like Coke and Samsung, who’ve hitched a ride aboard the Olympics bandwagon like ticks attach themselves to the underbelly of a Herdwick.
Lloyds TSB had a coach too. I wonder if it was part-owned by the tax-payer?
So has all this clamour ignited an Olympic torch of aspiration and sporting endeavour in me? Not likely.
Has the symbolism of the mighty orange flame being led through Kendal inspired people to come together?
Yes, in the same way that they do on Bonfire Night or Kendal Torchlight for far less money.
Is there evidence of spurious targets being met for demonstrating social inclusion, diversity and equality, as set down by Utopian public sector grant-giving bodies? I’m sure there will be.
In light of the Government’s fast-disappearing stockpiles of money couldn’t this event have been scaled back or delivered for a fraction of the sums we hear about, which would have left more in the larder for the leaner days ahead?
At the original launch of the torch relay, London 2012 chairman Seb Coe is remarked: “The relay is an inspirational moment.” I think he meant grossly expensive.
I asked my four-year-old what she thought. “Good,” she replied. “Was it worth waiting for?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied.
I’m glad, I thought. Because Daddy and Mummy will be paying it off for years.
- South Lakeland blogger Ellis butcher