When Baron Pierre de Coubertin coined the Olympic slogan ‘Citius, altius, fortius’ (‘faster, higher, stronger’), what he had in mind was athletes – not the ground-to-air missiles deployed to protect them.
But the beauty of that slogan is in its easy adaptability to modern conditions, where AA defences at sporting arenas are as essential as the arenas themselves. One gets the feeling that perhaps the Olympic ideal has lost its universal magnetic power, if it ever had it. Unless of course by magnetic power we mean the sort of devices that can be so profitably rigged to car doors.
Mach 2.5 Rapier missile systems to be deployed at Epping, Enfield, Blackheath and Greenwich are rather more sophisticated than the kit normally associated with sporting events. True, they are fast, high and strong, but they are designed to defeat bandits at four o’clock, not opponents in 100-metre sprints.
I do have my misgivings about those things, especially in light of the austerity programme currently underway. Our armed forces provide the only public service the British are good at, and yet it’s this service that has suffered the only meaningful cuts. And in this context ‘meaningful’ means ‘debilitating’.
We already know our military no longer has the wherewithal to launch another South Atlantic operation (but please don’t tell it to the Argies). So what makes you think that, come August, we’ll still have enough trained personnel to operate those Rapiers? Call me a sceptic and all that, but I fear that the launchers will be manned, or rather personed, by social workers, whose number is growing fast, austerity or no austerity.
Call me even a worse sceptic, but I also fear that even after a crash course in AA tactics they still will be unable to tell the difference between a rogue plane about to crash into a stadium and a 747 descending on Heathrow. I’d postpone that holiday in Spain till September, or else take it in July, if I were you.
And as to the 7,500 soldiers to be deployed as guards, forget it. Dave will make sure that by that time we won’t have so many left in toto.
So those bandits at four o’clock may very well get through, and London’s East End will be pounded again, as it was during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe. This just may provide that sorely needed incentive for the nation to unite again, to rediscover its self-confidence, to scream defiance in the face of adversity.
But we must go further in our preparations. For example, I would suggest a total blackout of London for the duration, except for Westminster when our spivocrats are in session. Issuing gas masks is also a good idea, especially if they are made obligatory for all Londoners sporting facial metal or tattoos.
‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well,’ said de Coubertin, and I agree wholeheartedly. Except that we must now expand the concept of fighting to include fisticuffs with any suspicious-looking foreigners, especially those toting bags.
To that end, I propose that all Londoners take compulsory courses in how to say ‘let’s see what’s in your bag, sunshine’ in 49 different languages. Here’s my starter for 49: that’ll be ‘Fais voir ce que t’as dans ton sac, mon mec’ in French, ‘Muestre lo que tenes en tu bolsa, hombre’ in Spanish and ‘Pokazhi shto u tebia v meshke, suka’ in Russian. Can’t tell you the Arabic for it – let real linguists (and martial arts coaches) take it from here.
Training and preparation are the secret of Olympic success, including the success defined in terms of wartime defences. The Olympic spirit is dead, long live the spirit of the Blitz, I say.
You may ask whether the whole travesty, which has become little more than a vehicle for assorted tyrannies to advertise themselves, is really worth the trouble. Whether it would be better to save the billions we are tossing at this spectacle and reroute them where they are really needed.
You may be right to ask these questions – before the Olympics. But do get them off your chest now. Once the Games start, such scepticism may be treated as treason, and you may be tried according to martial law, with the firing squad awaiting. Your grandparents didn’t question whether it was all worth it during the Blitz, did they?