London Olympics: why it’s good to whinge

London Olympics

Even before the first medal has been contested in the London Olympics it appears that Great Britain has already been crowned champions in one activity. According to a NY Times article we are a nation that enjoys ‘low-grade grousing’ at the best of times and has taken this skill to a new level as a consequence of having the Olympics thrust upon us, with all the resulting pain that being a host involves.

I can’t help feeling a strange sense of British pride when I read this article. It’s hard to dispute too much of what the author of the article Sarah Lyall states. Yes many of us do fear the worst when it comes to London’s transport system falling apart when the world is watching. And we do shake our heads in resignation and wonder how the embarrassing shambles surrounding the Games security could have been allowed to happen. Ask people living in and around London and it’s easy to believe the majority can’t wait for the whole thing to be over so that normal service can resume (with all its usual grumbles).

So why the feeling of pride in our reputation of being among the world’s best moaners? Is it just a case of us seeing the glass as half empty?

I’m quite happy to live in a country where we absorb our news with a healthy pinch of salt and where the words of politicians, journalists, brand managers and marketeers are treated with the suspicion they generally deserve.

To a large extent the London Olympics have been hijacked by people (to be more precise, corporations) who don’t inspire any form of goodwill or happiness. It is sad that the organisers of the Games appear to have taken every opportunity to talk about ‘protecting the sponsors’ brands’ at the expense of the public. That the most visible impact of those brands’ presence will be an inability to buy proper chips or use a universally accepted credit card within the Olympic venues sends out a very negative signal.

This was not how it was meant to be, although perhaps we were naive to ever think it would be otherwise. Hopefully public reaction will ensure that those brand names, so carefully protected, are tarnished as a result of their spiteful behaviour.

Yet come the start of the sport I suspect most of those enjoying a good gripe will get drawn into the excitement of the action. For a few days we’ll pretend to know our keirin from our omnium, our épée from our sabre and our air pistols from our skeets. Our life-long ignorance about minority sports will be momentarily interrupted before we quickly slump back into complete indifference.

Will this enthusiasm be a result of the insincere cries of encouragement given out by discredited public figures? Not in the slightest. Will it be down to the massive advertising campaigns by the sponsors? No, it will be despite of their hypocritical and hollow messages.

Whatever the cock-ups with ticketing, security and inevitably transport, most of us will enjoy the London Olympics in our own way. Just don’t expect us to look happy while we’re doing it.

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

4 Responses to “London Olympics: why it’s good to whinge”

  1. Britain, where the word ‘doublethink’ originated. Mr Orwell would be proud, even your ‘healthy pinch of salt’ is could be classed as an example.

    The Olympics is just another example of how sporting prowess can be purchased. Football is a more blatant example, but if enough money is pumped into a team it will be successful. The event is more of a competition between competing lottery and corporate sponsor funders.

    To me the glass is never half full, only too small. 😉

    July 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm
    • Thanks John – yes, football went sold its soul 20 years ago when TV companies decided to throw big money at it. It’s lost much of its attraction (to me at least) since then. The amateur ideals of the Olympics too are now long gone.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:18 am
  2. Although I am English I must admit that I am glad to be away from all. (Currently in Australia). That probably makes me a moaner but there is no fun in fighting your way through crowds and paying over the top prices.That’s not to say I don’t want Britain to do well, of course I do, I just want to see it from the comfort of my armchair:)

    August 3, 2012 at 4:02 am
  3. I have to admit that prior to the Olympic Games I was worried that us Brits would find a way to not deliver it and that our essential need to moan would actually kill it before it even began.

    How WRONG I was. The Olympic Games have been a fantastic event, delivering at so many levels. In fact, I was disappointed when it finished just to find I was even more inspired by the Paralympics that followed it.

    We actually have something to be proud of, let enjoy that fact, it hasn’t happened often.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm