the torch arrives in Finchley, along with a shouty plainclothes policeman
Mrs Angry has had lots and lots of hits on the blog this morning from people searching for details of the Olympic Torch relay, which came to our borough today. It was pleasing to think that all these readers arrived not at a summary of the official route but on Saturday's post about the alternative Torch relay and demo, which took place in order to allow residents express their fierce opposition to the One Barnet programme of mass outsourcing of our council services.
As it happened, Mrs Angry, son and daughter stood and waited for the Torch relay to arrive outside the entrance to Victoria Park, where the Our Barnet alternative relay had been forced to halt, due to the refusal of Barnet Council to allow residents to enter their own park.
Miss Angry and local children await the Torch
Despite the fun atmosphere in the thousands of onlookers lining the route, whereas the Saturday event had been the focus of real political and community spirit, the relay today was largely a tawdry, corporate carnival, the runner with the torch barely visible between the advertising trailers accompanying her. In essence, it perfectly summed up pretty much what is wrong with so many global sporting events, whether the World Cup, international cricket, or the Olympic games, commercial sponsorship is corrupting the spirit of competitive sport, and reducing what should be a unifying interaction of athletes, and countries, into a massive marketing opportunity.
Not just globally, of course. Referring back to the ideas of 'What money can't buy', and the introduction of a market economy into areas where such values, or lack of them, simply should not exist, these London games seem the most appropriate symbol of the political culture of our coalition government, and the ruthless deconstruction of so many of the many foundations of our society in favour of the yearning for profit where profit cannot or should not be made: the NHS, education, the emergency services ... ... the public sector.
And here in Barnet, we have the perfect demonstration of how far you can take this commercial exploitation of well, almost everything you can think of. Apart from the monstrous One Barnet programme, which has been designed to facilitate the profit of transnational companies at the expense of the services so vital to the wellbeing of our community, we are witnessing the sell off of anything of any material value. Our museums and libraries are not valued as part of the cultural life of this borough, but as property assets. And this rule of materialism, in this year of Olympic glory, applies not only to culture and heritage, but also in the case of sport.
In the last week or so, we have seen the continuation of a desperately grubby wrangling over the sale of Hendon FC ground, mysteriously sold by Barnet Council not to the highest bidder, for once, but determinedly to the bidder with a lower offer. We have also seen something very sad, the loss of Barnet FC - the team has been forced to leave its home in the borough at Underhill, and relocate to Harrow. What will happen to the land left vacant by this move, Mrs Angry, I hear you ask? Hmm. Mrs Angry simply cannot imagine.
the sponsors relay and screens
Compare this sad loss,and the crocodile tears of Barnet Council, to the wonderful encouragement given to Saracens rugby team, from Watford, who have been given our Copthall Stadium to play with, at a peppercorn rent, rather than Barnet FC, who have been kicked over to Harrow (rather like Barnet Council's own mutinous legal team - but that's another story). Yesterday we learnt that Saracens have agreed a fabulous commercial deal with a German finance company which means we must refer to Copthall Stadium, from now on, as 'Allianz Park'. Like f*ck. Not in this blog. Copthall is named after a nearby seventeenth century manor house, home to the local landowning Nicholl family, but shamefully demolished, in traditional Barnet style, in 1959.
Why is it that an outside team, whose fabulously wealthy chairman Nigel Wray lives in Totteridge, has been given such favourable accommodation, when our local football team has been kicked out of the borough? And why have Saracens been able to use one of our assets to generate income for themselves, and not the residents of this borough?
more sponsor relay nonsense
Where are the opportunities for local residents to take part in sport? Where are the facilities, for those who cannot afford gym fees? How will we encourage Olympic atheletes of the future, in this borough, especially those whose parents are not able to afford to pay for their sporting activities?
The Olympic spirit, supposedly one of mutual understanding, a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play ... to Mrs Angry, this all sounds closer to the motivation of the alternative Torch relay, Our Barnet, not One Barnet, than the corporate carnival which passed through Finchley today.
As the Torch approached Victoria Park, it was noticeable that the only real security surrounding the procession was an escort of somewhat agressive and frankly rather sweaty police officers in grey t shirts running alongside the torch bearer.
officer on the route, one of a team brought in from Greater Manchester police
Mrs Angry thought back to the keen attentions of counter terrorist officers to local shopkeepers' spokeswoman Helen Michael, and the phone call to the organiser of the alternative torch relay. It seemed even more likely today, that all the fuss about potential demonstrations along the course of the route was the real motive for such interest. And as it was clear that neither individual represented a security risk, it seems evident that what was being investigated was the threat of political embarrassment, and a disruption of a major PR excercise for the corporate sponsors.
Long way from Olympia, 776 BC, to Broken Barnet 2012, isn't it?