In case you have spent the last five years on a prolonged city break in Pyongyang, you will have noticed the Olympics are in town this summer. Our nation’s leaders have assured us that the London Olympics will be “the greatest show on earth”, a celebration of Britain that will galvanize, inspire and unify each and every citizen. Budget cuts, Tory sleaze and the implications of a Grecian financial implosion will be brushed under the national carpet as Britain collectively wedges itself in front of BBC1 to enjoy Tom Daley showing off.
Sadly, as I imagine Stratford’s sparkling coliseum falling silent in anticipation of Boris and Dave’s nauseating opening speech, I cannot help but cringe at the Britain we will display to the world. Certainly, a smiling Monarch, charming Etonians and a celebration of power would have been expected the last time we hosted the games in 1948, but can we really do no better in 2012? For those of you who weren’t about in 1948, the old Etonian David Cecil Burghley opened the Games at Wembley stadium in front of an unusually quiet George VI and a war torn British public. Is that still the best we have to offer?
the Olympics have unfortunately revealed a London-centric Britain that has an unnerving capacity to isolate large sections of the country
As our beloved coalition continues to unravel the accomplishments of our grandparents, it is easy to forget how much Britain has achieved the since World War Two. Yet, multicultural democracy, the NHS, and a thriving arts scene aside, David Cameron’s gleaming forehead apparently remains Britain’s brightest star.
The main danger with the Olympics is the display of southern wealth. Whilst I have no intention of pandering to the Guardian reading know-it-all, the Olympics have unfortunately revealed a London-centric Britain that has an unnerving capacity to isolate large sections of the country. The Whitehall bubble often forgets that most Britons do not live or work in London and will see little benefit from the much revered Olympic legacy. The notion that “we’re all in it together” is the only semi-credible piece rhetoric that’s keeping the coalition together, they must not allow the Olympics to undermine that.
One thing is for certain: British politics has radically changed since 1948. It now takes days to convert a freshly elected revolutionary Member of Parliament into a Costa coffee swilling tosser and evidently, nobody’s finding the solution to post-industrialism at the bottom of a cafe latté. The implications of this trend are not to be ridiculed. If all roads lead to London then educated graduates, business leaders, and public spending spiral into a black hole of metropolitan dominance and the rest of the UK continues along a path of managed decline. This is not a party specific issue; the New Left and New Right both pursued economic policies that made London, and more importantly, the City the driving force behind the British economy. It is time for a rethink and we must look to Germany for a way out of this mess.
Germany realised a long time ago that an inclusive and relevant education system, a varied economy, and targeted public spending policies produce some pretty impressive results. Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart are all international beacons of innovation and most importantly, are not geographically situated in one area. Germany’s economic might is expressed as a nation, not through one city and the sooner we follow suit the better.
For those of you who have reached this far and are beginning to feel a little uncomfortable underneath your Jack Wills collar, you have good reason to be wary. Britain should not solely exist for London, the pushy middle classes, and white nihilistic men staring at adverts for watches in GQ. Our best universities, schools and jobs should be universally attainable purely through hard work and we shouldn’t let the Olympics distract us from the realities of current situation.
Whilst I am sure the Olympics are going to be fantastic, don’t let Boris charm you into a hegemonic stupor.