I am looking forward to the sporting aspect of the upcoming London Olympics, (the triathlon and middle and long-distance running, especially) but I just wish it would come sooner, if for only one reason: To have the flame of the Olympic torch stop its infuriating journey around the kingdom and beyond.
In my opinion, the torch’s procession is a classic example of planners not keeping their eye firmly fixed on return on investment (ROI). To have the flame travel to more than 1,000 villages and towns that all supposedly are within an hour of 95 per cent of the British population takes some organisation. I wonder what planners organised it, how many planners helped, what planning went into getting all those roads closed, those crowds safely in place and those press releases written and sent? And how much say did they have in who takes part? Little, it would seem, unless they've been told to forsake dedication for celebration or to pander to the whims of the procession’s official sponsors.
How else could we explain why will.i.am from pop band The Black Eyed Peas was allowed to carry the torch through Taunton (or 'Taurton', as he tweeted whilst running)? Does Somerset have a transport link to Los Angeles I’ve never heard of?
In this last week the flame crossed what is now called the Celtic Sea to our friends in Dublin, Ireland, which is fine, although strange, but then (who planned this!), it was carried by Jedward. Now, I’ve spent the last 19 years in the United States, so I had no idea who these people were. Say what you like about the USA, but it has no Jedward. I went on YouTube to see who they were and what they did. Oh, my goodness, I mean, oh, dear. I know this is not the best Ireland can do, that gloried land of culture, conversation and craic.
Planners must stand firm in the future. Even if the vast majority of torchbearers were voted for by local people and are themselves local, community-minded, charitable individuals, unsung and the best among us, the inclusion of even one or two blink-and-they’ve-gone celebrities could undermine all that might be good in this exercise. The torchbearers should be those who contribute quietly and/or modestly strive to excel in sports no one cares about except for once every four years (and then only when we unexpectedly produce a medal).
The Olympic torch planners have lost sight of the ROI of the whole thing. Any planner can do the glitzy, 'look at me' production, but if the agenda is lacking, the event is wasted. I’d rather planners went for the simple, dignified route - have the flame burn in Beijing for four years before allowing it to do the same in London and then so on in whatever city the Olympics is being held in. And imagine the huge cost savings! I do not think the flame travelling around unites anyone.
Everyone I’ve spoken to is now thoroughly bored by the flame’s passage, and the only time it might excite us is on its last leg to the Olympic Stadium or, before that, on July 22, when it travels to Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, where my Mum can see it by walking a few metres down the road.