This week I’ve done stuff. I’ve been for a jog most mornings (I aim for under 10 seconds for the sprint between the front gate and the back door, and so far I have a 100% record). I’ve done my end of month accounting and reports, and my quarterly report for the Writers in Prison network; I’ve had three sessions at the hospital, and a session with a GP surgery group with whom I worked about two years ago – and they are still meeting! They’ve done really well to keep it going. I’ve done some more gardening, although not as much as I’d have liked, and my car passed its MOT. I’ve done some stuff for Poetry on Loan and the prison, and cleaned my whole house, and seen The Dark Knight Rising – not as good as the others, in my view, but ok. And I’ve done most of the work on one of the four books I have to prepare.
But I’ve been thinking about the Olympics, and watching bits from time to time. I’ve spoken to a few people about the Olympics, too. Now, I’ve complained a lot about the restrictions of what words can be used (you can’t use both “Olympics” and “2012” in one place, for example), and I still think that this was completely over the top. But lots of people have complained about the big sponsorship deals, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this really doesn’t matter….
…because I have never once heard anyone say anything like “the Coke Olympics” or “the MacDonald’s Olympics”. Have you? Nobody thinks of them like that; they are just the Olympics. The sponsorship has not impinged on us at all, really. I guess it might do if you’re there and you can only buy MacDonald’s to eat, but apart from those lucky few people, I shouldn’t think that any of the sponsorship has changed anybody’s behaviour at all. This is bad news for the sponsors, perhaps, but ok for the rest of us, and if they want to spend their money providing such a good event then that’s fine with me. (And please don’t say “Ah, it does affect people; they just don’t realise.” This is so arrogant that I refuse to listen.)
And let’s face it, it is a good event. This particular Olympics is all running well, and the whole idea has to be a good one – that warring nations cease hostilities for a while and play games instead. I’m reading a book by Steven Pinker, called The better angels of our nature, which shows how as a species, we are becoming less and less violent, and the Olympics are a good illustration of some of the things he says.
And what’s more, I believe that it is an essential part of human nature to want to run faster, throw further, jump higher. Most of us have no hope of reaching the levels of the athletes, but I’m sure they act as rôle models and inspirations for many people.
I have never really won anything. Oh, there were some school prizes, and a few poetry slams; and I should have been Cheshire under-14s mixed doubles badminton champion, but the tournament was handicapped, and my partner and I were playing off such a ridiculously high handicap that we couldn’t possibly have won, although we were definitely the best there and came very close (bitter? Me?). But I’ve never ever been able to say, that just now, once, today, I am the best in the world, or even the country, at anything. Wouldn’t it be nice? And I can smile with those gold medal winners, not with envy, but with empathy; and that’s a good feeling.
It all costs a lot of money, of course, and that’s the big problem that I don’t have a response to. But almost everything I do is paid for out of public funds, which could be spent elsewhere, and it’s all to do with what’s worthwhile in life. I don’t have any answers to this, and so I’ll just get on with doing my stuff, and enjoying these Olympics, which don’t belong to the commercial sponsors, but to me.