We don’t hate the Olympics, but… Cardiff and the World.
We were really going to try and resist this one, but given all the very forced hoopla in the Welsh media coverage regarding the theoretical importance of the Olympics ‘coming’ to Cardiff, it became difficult to resist. For weeks now we have been fed a steady diet of saturated fat based oozing of appreciation for the significance of the Cardiff based Olympic events. Hardly a day has gone by during the last five weeks where there has not been a story extolling the virtues for the city and for Wales, of several football games being played here under the shadow of five colourful rings and the silhouettes cast by ‘London2012’ bunting.
Now, comments from the likes of the chief medical officer for Wales, that the presence of the Olympics will inspire some into physical activity, probably have some merit, if you turn a blind eye to the fast food dominated corporate sponsorship. We are not going to dismiss the good time had by people coming into the city to watch the games, after all, Cardiff is a proven venue for major international sporting events, it was always going to go well. Indeed, we don’t really begrudge the football competition being in Wales, it’s nice to be involved in something that, we can hope, will have some form of legacy for the British Isles. What we don’t like is the barefaced lies spun around the handful of games to be played in Cardiff, and what they will do for the city.
Sebastian Coe heralded Cardiff as a true Olympic City on the morning of the first football games, experts told us of the way in which the football matches would raise the profile of Cardiff and Wales to a global audience, indeed BBC Wales presenters were tripping over each other to tell us that ‘yes, the eyes of the world are all on Cardiff’. But were they? Of course there was plenty of coverage from Cardiff, but how many news carriers were really going to the effort of spinning the ‘Welsh’ story in all this?
A quick look at the British newspapers this morning might give an indication of the profile boost Cardiff was receiving yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, Times and Guardian all carried front page photographs of the first fixture to be played in Cardiff yesterday. Of those, the Guardian elaborated briefly on the location of the fixture, both The Times and Telegraph decided to concentrate their analysis on the furious North Koreans (who of course were not playing in Cardiff). The Daily Express and Mail did not overlook the Olympics, but instead chose to run stories detailing the life and times of royal Zara Phillips. Meanwhile the Star had a full page spread discussing David Beckham’s role in the opening ceremony. However the Independent, Sun, and of course, the London Evening Standard all acted as if nothing had happened at all, for them the Olympics won’t even begin for another day.
Internationally, the Wall Street Journal carried no more than Nick Hornby whining about his lack of Olympic spirit, The New York Times covered the football…featuring the US women’s team, playing in Scotland, but equally failed to make mention of the fact that the game was outside of London. In France, Le Monde was unaware of any Olympic opening games. Belgium, Germany, Ireland, no sign of Cardiff on the front pages in any of those. Even in New Zealand, the other nation to be involved in the opening game in Cardiff, saw little need to put the story on their front page. We could go on, but there are a lot of national newspapers globally to cover which failed to turn over their banner headlines to ‘Cardiff’s day in history’.
The point here, is that despite the great insistence of the Olympic organisers and the BBC, the eyes of the world were not on Cardiff, and they were never going to be. This was not some great promotional opportunity for Cardiff and Wales, and it was never going to be. Cardiff is not an Olympic city, and sadly, it will never be. It helped out, briefly, while the actual Olympic city of London continues to attract the world’s attention. Go back to all those newspapers on Saturday morning, how many do you think will have front page spreads on London and its marvellous opening ceremony? If it is any short of all of them, it will be a surprise.
So, we don’t hate the Olympics, and we don’t hate them visiting Wales, but we do hate being told, so insistently, that this is a really good thing for us. It was a nice thing perhaps, a good thing in that tourism via 30-40,000 extra sports enthusiasts coming into the city is always welcome, and a positive thing if it encourages only a few Welsh children to play some sport rather than watch it on television while chowing through their Olympic branded cheeseburger. But please stop pretending, stop trying to persuade people in Wales that this will be anything more than that. The Olympics start on Friday with an opening ceremony in London, that is where the eyes of the world will be, and that is where they will remain. Most importantly, when all this is done and dusted, and the athletes and world media make their way home, it is London that will be remembered, not Cardiff, or any of the other places to have elements of the games farmed out to them.
So can we please just treat this for what it is? Giving a small proportion of games out to distant parts of the British Isles was an effort in head patting, an exercise is distracted people from the fact that the main beneficiaries of the games will be London, despite everyone in Britain having to foot the bill. Even that is not a problem, London is hosting, why shouldn’t London be the primary beneficiary?! But stop pretending otherwise. Just let us enjoy the games without all the so-forced and oh so heavy propaganda. We certainly don’t hate the Olympics, but Seb Coe and his organisational team sure make it hard not to.