~ Posted by Jasper Rees, August 9th 2012
Haven’t we behaved well? Haven’t the smiles and the courtesy and the tangible whiff of goodwill been peachy? Yes, yes and oh yes. The Olympic Games have turned London into an unusually pleasant place. Even if, as I was the other night, you’re at the boxing, reachable by cable car and patrolled by armies of love-spreading volunteers. Indeed, almost the only instance of unseemliness was that bloke who made a nuisance of himself by lobbing a bottle onto the track at the start of the men’s 100-metre final. The female Dutch judo player who administered a firm pragmatic slap has been censured by nobody.
The fortnight of nirvana has been, for us Brits at least, a blissful holiday from the brutal reality of sporting routine. British athletes actually beat the rest of the world, again and again, despite having many fewer noughts in their weekly wage packet than the stars the tabloids post on pedestals the rest of the year. Our runners and riders have done it all with courtesy and charm, modesty and style. The trackside interviews with Team GB made a nation purr with pleasure. All that talent, all that dedication, and no air of entitlement could be detected in any of the participants, however blue-blooded. Here are world-beaters you can introduce to your parents.
But uh-oh, any minute now the football will be back, the whole shop-soiled circus with its toppling freight of self-importance. We must make ready for another ten months of hyperventilation and egomania. Perhaps the annual roundelay would almost be tolerable if our players could actually play the game to a world-class standard at the same time as wearing an England shirt. But no, this summer at Euro 2012 the Spanish exhibited artistry on a grand scale while, on the few occasions the ball came their way, the English looked as if they’d been passed a live grenade.
For years this former football writer has been waiting for the grotesquely over-capitalised Premiership to eat itself, or spontaneously combust, or maybe just spend a little time looking in the mirror. It never happens. The wages get fatter, the melodrama tawdrier. Please could Europe’s highest-paid sportsmen be more like the athletes and cyclists and rowers of Team GB? And if football really can’t put its house in order, how about hiring that Dutch judo player to do it for us? I’d pay to watch that.
Jasper Rees is a regular contributor to Intelligent Life, a former football writer for the Independent on Sunday and the biographer of Arsène Wenger