Monday, 13 August 2012


Robinson, above, in the men’s changing area of the pools on Hampstead Heath on Saturday. He went in the water, he puttered about, he didn’t win any medals but he felt good.

The so-called feel-good factor has been around in plenty these past weeks. Medals help, but the main thing has been the smiles, not least on the faces of those who’ve won the medals: people dedicated to their chosen sports to a fanatical degree but who, put in front of the camera, turn out to be the girl-next-door, the boy-next-door. The £9.3 billion, the corporate sponsorship, the blanking-out of dissent, are one thing, the expressions on the faces another. And the smiles are infectious.

This is what they – those with the billions to spend – were gambling on. And they won. The competitors, and the volunteers, swung it. In fact as long as they kept drugs out of it, and ensured the money was going into structural support rather than directly into the pockets of the athletes, they couldn’t lose. The faces, but the bodies too: gorgeous ones, bodies at their peak, showing what extreme and sometimes bizarre things they are capable of. The Olympics are a celebration of the body, and there’s nothing unlovely in that (next time they’re in London, can there please be a poet-in-residence in the Olympic village, and can Robinson apply?). And I have no problem at all with government (my, your) money going into the promotion of beautiful bodies, especially in a culture where a joke in the early days of the Games seemed valid: that the Brits won medals only in sports where they were sitting down. As long as someone up there – someone at the table where they talk about the 'legacy' – remembers that there are also such things as beautiful minds, which are not less lovely but not as tele-genic as beautiful bodies, and which therefore, for their development, to enable them to get even near what they may be capable of, may need even more structural support.

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