Mark Steel: The Olympics are great — when someone else hosts them

Issue 

What an ideal opportunity that was, to at last engage the local residents with the Olympics. When it turned out there weren't enough security staff, they should have employed east London's famous criminal community.

They'd have loved the chance to stand over people at the entrance gates, growling "Now listen. I said LISTEN. Any misbehaving, and you're going to make me upset. And you don't wanna see me, not when I'm upset. So don't even THINK about taking in non-sponsored foodstuffs or you'll be sucking all your dinners through a straw. ALL RIGHT? Now go and enjoy yer mixed doubles quarter-finals in yer badminton."

This would be more pleasant than armed soldiers patrolling the event, and other security measures such as placing surface-to-air missiles on council estate roofs. If the Palestinians do that they get screamed at for using civilians as a "human shield", but we're doing it to protect the 200 metres backstroke.

There's now a bigger military presence in London than at any time since the Blitz. By the time the Games start, there'll be a sniper on the diving board and swimmers in lane five of the pool will have to go round the periscope of a nuclear sub.

It's been suggested that spectators should allow three hours to get into the site, which fits with the sense most Londoners have that we're not wanted there. Even the route of the marathon has been changed to avoid images that might suggest that London has grubby bits.

A global festival is taking place in our city and we're told every day to stay at home, work at home, and not even use the word Olympic unless we're an official sponsor.

By next week, London will have become like the queue for a prestigious nightclub, with bouncers patrolling the streets telling anyone who isn't good-looking or famous to go home, so we don't damage London's global brand image by revealing our unsightly people.

It ought to be fantastic, but many sports fans say they've never looked forward to an Olympic Games with less enthusiasm than the one in their own town. Maybe that's because when it's nearby you can see the greed and sinister snobbery close up.

So people are cynical about the Olympics not because they hate sport but because they love it, just as the more you love music, the more you'll dislike One Direction and Justin Bieber.

So I wonder if it's too late to have a fantastic Olympics, by handing them over to France or Argentina, and as part of the deal they can have Sebastian sodding Coe for nothing as well.

[First appeared at The Independent.]

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