Cast your mind back a few weeks, to a time when many people thought the Olympics were going to be an omnishambles. Remember that?
Then let me introduce my good friend Onika Simon, to tell you about the highs and lows of her Olympic journey. Note: she works in branding, so knows a thing or two about design and would like a word with whoever signed off on Wenlock, Mandeville and THAT logo… so, ladies and gentlemen, give a big hand to Onika, who’s very kindly agreed to write the very first guest post on this blog…
Despite being an avid fan of the Olympics since Seoul ’88, national pride isn’t an emotion I’m familiar with. My response upon hearing that The Games were coming to London, was a full-body cringe and three knee-jerk questions: Where? Why? and HOW? My pessimism was quickly vindicated by the collective groan of over 3 million daily commuters. They can barely look after us, we sighed between shallow breaths, tucked elbows and leaking armpits – how the hell are they going to handle a few thousand more?
Sure enough, even with a two year head start, the ineptitude of London authorities was beyond anything our most cynical comedians had come up with. First came the logo – a spiky blocky awkward scrawl, the colour of Pepto Bismol – which is what most people needed when it was revealed by smug design wunderkinds at Wolff Olins. Oblivious hipsters and cantankerous anarchists rejoiced. The rest of us threw up a little in our mouths and braced ourselves for the worst.
Next came one-eyed mutant mascots with animated origin stories that even adults couldn’t understand, let alone kids – and a dystopic helter skelter made from the dried blood of arts fund trustees, courtesy of Anish “it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s all about the idea” Kapoor. With the visual identity of our historical and international event, in cartoonish neon blobby bloody tatters, I turned my attention to the games themselves to see what kind of fun times we had in store.
The answer was NOTHING. No tickets. They were all gone – or seemingly diverted to corporate sponsors, now that we can see how many empty seats have surrounded every single event bar the 100 metre final.
That was that then. So I limited my hopes to a decent opening ceremony, which delivered on the balance of confidence, nostalgia and batshit amazeballs, I was hoping for. I couldn’t see where that extra 40 million went. But the masses were finally happy enough with the general atmosphere of the games, to absorb the craptacular cock-ups involving real life athletes from other countries, that were inevitably on the way.
We opened with a doozy – a cack-tastic diplomatic error worthy of a medal made from POOP, for its jaw-dropping mark on the WTF scale. North Korea’s about to play our first Olympic football match. So we put the South Korea flag up. Taking the term ‘Sport is War’ to literally nuclear levels, we are.
I’ll end this aptly energetic tirade on a positive note. Through the blunderfog, I have actually had a shining moment of national pride, though it took me completely by surprise. When four women’s badminton teams – the gold medal favorites from China, plus two from South Korea and one from Indonesia – took advantage of the tournament format by trying to lose on purpose to give themselves easier quarterfinal match-ups – they were disqualified and summarily dismissed from the Olympic village. But not until they’d endured a 15-minute telling off from one of the gentlest and most genuinely-disappointed-looking referees in the country. As he handed them the black card of disqualification, my ears burned for them but my heart swelled with an unfamiliar positive sensation.
Our games might be ugly, expensive and dangerously disorganised, but our intentions are pure – and woe betide anyone (who’s not a fully paid up corporate sponsor) that rocks up with a dodgy agenda. I’m making a tee shirt, with the following phrase in blocky Pepto pink: ‘No Bullsh*t Please, We’re British!”