Why I’m Boycotting the Olympics

by Elias Blum

(1) It is expensive. At a time of ‘austerity’, most of the money spent on the Olympics could better be saved and passed on to poor (e.g. reducing regressive taxes, or increasing child benefit for those on low incomes).

(2) It is London-centric. Once again, our rulers in Westminster and Whitehall reveal that their mental geography is limited to the Babylonish metropole, where everything happens and which sucks in all the funds. The neglected far-flung provinces just foot the bill.

(3) It is a propaganda tool, being used as a fairly blatant push for legitimacy by the Establishment, desperate to cover up the lack of bread with a surfeit of circuses.

(4) ‘Team GB’. Come on. This offends many Scottish nationalists. This is supposed to be a multi-national Union. So the London-based parties and the No camp tell us all the time. But then they show their true colours, and treat it as if it were a simple unitary state. They don’t even understand why this is a problem.

(5) It is being used as an excuse to tighten already super-tight ‘anti-terror’ laws and surveillance laws, that are frequently abused to harass peaceful protest and dissent, ultimately undermining the basis of a free society.

(6) What once was an amateur sporting event has been turned into a commercial enterprise. It is a celebration not of sportsmanship, but of corporate sponsorship, power and greed.

So, this summer, I’m boycotting the olympics and everything to do with them. I’m not going. I’m not watching it on TV. I’m not cheering for ‘Team GB’. I’m not buying sponsored or branded goods.

Instead, I’d rather support the egg-n-spoon or the three-legged race at my local village fete. Because that’s where the good society is to be found: authentic, face-to-face, human scale, do-it-yourself, low-budget, good clean fun for all the family. No need to worry about transport, because you can walk there. There’s no need for any security beyond the local part-time copper, and no need of any corporate sponsorship beyond a stall selling pasties.  And it doesn’t reduce us to consuming, passive, spectators either. We can join in. Go on. Bean bag race is fun.

Problem is, that there is no village fete. There is no village green, either – not since the new supermarket was built. What was once a public green space is now a private expanse of ‘ample parking’. How very convenient.

It is no good griping. One must propose better alternatives, not simply complain. So here’s my alternative. Take one-third of the nine billion pounds being spent on the Olympics to create a Green Restoration Fund (the other two-thirds can be returned to the Treasury). Allow towns and villages which lack a decent green to submit bids to buy and transform some conveniently located space. The fund could provide 150 localities with a two million pounds each, and there are plenty of brown field sites now going cheaply that could be repurposed as greens for that sort of sum. The local parish council or community council should be solely responsible for managing the project and should be the perpetual trustee of the green on behalf of the local community. Note, these greens aren’t just sports fields. They can be used as that, of course, but they are also meeting places. Places to put up marques for flower shows. Places to sit and picnic. Dare I say it, places to hold a market, where people can buy and sell without having to own vast amounts of capital. The work of planting lawns and trees, and putting in benches and skate parks and paths, would create some local jobs. There could also be a role for volunteers. The schools could get involved, for example by forming an after-school club where older children could learn about tree planting and fence building and other practical skills by helping out with the work. The government and the BBC could put the effort that they are putting into promoting the Olympics into promoting these green restoration projects.

And when the work is done and these public amenities are restored – not for one day, but for generations to come – then we can organise games for everyone. For the children. For their parents. For locally owned businesses that want to make a positive contribution to their town or village. For the arrogant old gentleman who likes to chair meetings, and who is slowly learning not to interrupt all the time because it upsets people. For the nice-but-annoying busybodies who run cake stalls. For the cranky ones with the flakey egos who insist that they should be umpire for the 100 meters. For the unemployed recovering alcoholic who gets angry and storms off but comes back the next day to apologise because it was just the red mist and he’s still working on it. For the Polish family who have moved to the area and want their son to make friends even though his English isn’t great yet. This is what building a community looks like – working, living, learning and enjoying together. This is what it means to rediscover our full humanity, to live more authentically, to go from being passive consumers to active citizens.

And afterwards, carrot cake and bramble wine will be served in the parish hall. Bring your musical instruments.