I don’t like New Year’s Eve. It may be an odd opinion to voice in late May, but I don’t like it. It’s not just the aspect of passing from one arbitrary moment in time to another, although when you stop to think about it, it is a little bizarre – Happy May 19th Eve everybody!
Neither is it the dilemma of where to go, to a pub? The pub will hold a hundred people, but they’ll sell 150 tickets at £15 each. You can’t smoke, can’t move inside, it’ll be hot, there’ll be nowhere to sit. What little space there is will be taken up by some dodgy covers band you don’t want to listen to, and you’ll spend all night shouting to have a conversation. The drinks will all have been ramped up in price for the night, and if it’s rubbish in there (and it will be) you can’t move on somewhere else, because they’ll be all ticket as well.
You can go to a house party. This was excellent when you were sixteen, but you’ll be spending all night making small talk to people you’ve only met once before, and to be honest you didn’t much care if you ever saw them again. There’ll be nibbles, with a dip. You’ll take a nice bottle of wine, which will be squirrelled away in a cupboard, and you’ll be plied with Tesco own brand wine lake plonk. You sit there waiting for the hands to move round so you can go home.
Then the appointed hour arrives, and this isn’t it either, although it very nearly is, you have to sing that bloody horrible song. It doesn’t mean anything, it is a piece of doggerel that has lost all context, and not only are you almost obliged to join in, you have to do so whilst doing that bloody silly hand thing.
No, I do not care for NYE, but the thing that does it for me is the concept of enforced jollity. You must have a good time. And so much effort is expended in chasing this ‘good time’ that no-one actually has one. It’s like softcore porn, all the prep is there, but in the end nobody goes away satisfied.
I dislike the idea that a good time must be had, will be had, and if you don’t have a good time it’s because there’s something wrong with you. The best nights out are the ones that just happen. It is the mood of the group, the random serendipity of discovering a new place with a good ‘vibe’. It isn’t something that can be manufactured.
Why am I banging on about this? I feel the same way about the Olympics. I am now so utterly, utterly fed up with the whole thing that I hope the athletics programme takes place in a deluge of biblical proportions and that the swimming pool springs a leak, and there’s still seventy days until the bloody thing starts.
I’ve been bombarded today by breathlessly excited reports about how, in a ceremony that I am led to understand was first conceived for the Berlin games (yes, those ones), a mirror was used to focus the sun’s rays and the resulting fire has been put in a little miner’s lamp, given a first class seat on a BA plane and flown to RNAS Culdrose. We’ve had a day’s coverage because someone’s taken a lantern on a plane.
There’s been another little ceremony involving some kind of cauldron (the mind boggles) and the same old faces we’ve seen time and again since the bidding process telling us how very, very important this is, how we should all be nigh orgasmic with delight, how we should turn out in our scores to line the route the torch will take to the stadium (which is fucking ugly by the way, I’ve been up to Stratford quite a bit these past few weeks, nothing to do with games). Quite how it takes seventy days to go from Cornwall to East London I don’t know. Why didn’t they just land at London City? They could have been there in an hour.
We’re then told how the flame needs a security detail. Police officers, when in uproar about the Home Sec, are being taken off regular duties to make sure, well, I don’t know what, that someone doesn’t steal the fire from the Greek gods? Have we nicked everyone called Prometheus, just in case? Apparently someone has to sleep with it every night. I hope they’ve got flame retardant jimjams.
This is, we’re reliably told, a cause for national celebration. I don’t understand why. Time and again we’re told how important, how wonderful, how exciting this all is. But is it?
The transport network in London is lousy with posters effectively saying ‘Proles: Need to get to work during the Olympics? Ha! Boy are you screwed, you should have left like, ten minutes ago!’ Meanwhile, the very important people, and they must be very important because we’ve never heard of them, will be speeding around specially designated lanes in London where the lights will change automatically when they approach lest the poor darlings start to form any sort of relationship with reality.
I’ve heard talk of how people who have got tickets for the games will be searched to prevent them endangering the safety of the competitors, officials and spectators by taking in a brand of bottled water that isn’t one of the official sponsors of the games. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to replace your confiscated drink with a 250ml bottle at a cost of only £50.
I’ve also heard talk about how they’ve tried to squeeze money out of people to stand on the roadside to watch cyclists whizz by, or on a headland in Weymouth to see some tiny little sailing boats three sodding miles out to sea.
This isn’t a cause for national celebration, this is yet another cynical attempt to separate us from as much of our money as is possible. Wherefore the Corinthian spirit of yore?
Then there’s the contests. For the likes of football and tennis we have events that simply aren’t the pinnacle of the sport, so what’s the point? I’m afraid I just don’t trust athletics, the sport has been tainted by drugs too much for too long. Swimming? Don’t care. Road cycling? Blimey, you think athletics is rotten. Track cycling, we’re very good at that, but it doesn’t do a great deal for me.
That’s not to say I don’t think the games aren’t a worthwhile sporting venture, I understand, respect and appreciate the effort the athletes put in, I understand how important it is to them, I wish them well, I hope their games are well run, well attended and well competed. I just don’t feel the same as they do.
I don’t even resent footing the bill, what I resent is the constant demands that we engage, celebrate and all the other meaningless platitudes that are pumped our way on a daily basis. It is important to the athletes, and important to the people who can have their egos stroked by being told how very important they are. It seems to me as if the sport is now secondary to the imagery of the event, and that seems awfully close to the tricks pulled during the Berlin games for my liking.
I’ll be glad when it’s over.