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Theodore Dalrymple
Empire Games « Back to Story

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I've no idea about your straw poll, but the empty seats in the stadiums were, in the main, caused by the pampered and the pandered-to not taking up their over-generous entitlements. Had those seats gone on general sale, they'd have been snapped up in a heartbeat.
"Call me lacking in British insights but I didn't realize Blair was held in such low esteem. He was a bit of a white knight in our country during the Iraq war."
Well Myles,here in Britain, many of us refer to him as "a white knight" but only if we are using Cockney rhyming slang.
A good article from the Dalrymple(with all the usual one-sided arrogant snottiness of a nerd no longer confined by the Law of The Play-ground) and utterly superb writing from Gibbon - methinks I will read him some more.
I have heard such nerdy diatribes against the barbarian lust for sport and adventure before.
As there is much of the barbarian in me
( bar the drunkeness) I must scribe a few words in their defence.
A world populated by entirely by introspective acadmic nerds who feared what was beyond the mouth of their cave would have stagnated just as surely as one populated entirely by barbarians -and ended up perhaps even more debased due to the lack of the necessities of survival AND progress that were often obtained by the more adventurous, questing and restless spirits.
There were far fewer empty seats than anyone was afraid of, or than many previous Olympics, and my straw poll guides me in a very different direction from Dalrymple's.
Many people were negative before, or at the beginning, but found the games an inspiring experience, not least because of the many clean-limbed, dedicated and successful young British people they saw there. One might have thought Dalrymple would recognise them as the very antithesis of the rioters he dwells on so. Patriotism once more became fashionable, and a British patriotism too, suggesting the British can achieve so much more when working together and not divided into their constituent nationalities. The conservative devaluing the present in favour of some often imaginary past is as repellent as the leftist doing the same in favour of some totally imaginary post revolutionary future. Both are miseries and sourpusses.
These games are not anything near so expensive, in relation to the strength of the underlying economy, as the Roman games to which they are compared here.

"Call me lacking in British insights but I didn't realize Blair was held in such low esteem. He was a bit of a white knight in our country during the Iraq war".

You may be using "white knight" in the somewhat distorted modern business sense. According to Wikipedia (not perfect, admittedly, but in this case quite accurate)

"The White Knight saves Alice from his opponent, the Red Knight. He repeatedly falls off his horse and lands on his head, and tells Alice of his inventions, which consists of things such as a pudding with ingredients like blotting paper, an upside down container, and anklets to guard his horse against shark bites. He recites a poem of his own composition, 'A-Sitting on a Gate', (but the song's name is 'Haddocks' Eyes') and he and Alice depart".

This nicely captures Blair's general bumbling incompetence, inability to focus, and practical uselessness - he is a walking proof that no amount of education can make a fool intelligent. What it leaves out is his sheer vicious callousness, selfish malice, and enormous capacity for deception - possibly amplified by self-deception. When Blair told the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he could have ready to attack Britain within 45 minutes, he was simply lying in his teeth. That statement was obviously untrue, and any competent military adviser - of whom the PM of course has a wide choice - would have told him so.

To this day Blair has refused to admit the consequences of his 15 minutes of fame - which include well over 1 million unnecessary deaths, and the expulsion of 4-5 million people from their homes and their very country.
Pretty well spot on, as usual.

What has surprised me most (although God knows it shouldn't by now) has been the delight of everyone from the media to the plebs with "Team GB"'s haul of medals. After all, plenty of insiders have quite openly revealed the secret: huge piles of government (i.e. taxpayers') money. I think it was the egregious Matthew Syed who remarked that in 1996 the UK won only a single gold medal, explaining contemptuously that almost all of the British sports people then were amateurs.

Back in the 1960s we used to exp[lain away Soviet sporting success by saying, "Well of course they do well; their people are on the government payroll and have nothing to do all day except train". If you can't beat them, join them; so now we have done exactly the same.

Thus the unprecedented haul of medals is regarded as the return on a substantial investment of taxpayers' money. The question that I am surprised no one has asked is: what good are those medals to the taxpayers? With the same money we could have built hospitals, paid teachers, or relieved poverty. How are we better off for supporting a large group of professional sportspeople who produce nothing except medals and records?

If the Olympics were about sport, it would be a different matter. But nowadays sport has been entirely professionalized, to the point where "amateur" is a contemptuous epithet. Sport does make a lot of money for certain people - indeed, for almost everyone except the taxpayers who fund it.
What a remarkable coincidence! I am reading "The Decline and Fall"...
Goodness, if those quotes from Edward Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' are representative of his writing style I doubt I will ever open that massive work. It just doesn't flow and one starts yawning already after the first paragraph. :(
Oh, for happier times, when the rabble knew their station in life and fully one quarter of the population were in service to their betters.
Wonderful classical perspective.
I think that, most unusually, Mr Dalrymple has misjudged the impact of the games, and particularly of the GB team's success, on the UK. The events are, now, very well attended, the welcome given to all competitors is unstinting, and it has buoyed the country's confidence considerably. Time will tell on how these effects will translate into a lasting legacy, but from an initial scepticism I've become very encouraged by the way the games have gone.
It's easy to be dyspeptic (to use your word) about the Games, as everyone from Morrissey to Peter Hitchens has been already.

Being actually here in London, my impression is that most people are not blind to the unpleasant and even ridiculous aspects of the Games, but are determined to make the most of them and to use them to show Britain at its best. I think they're succeeding.
Brian Richard Allen August 08, 2012 at 2:01 AM
That the corrupt clipped-vowel-spewing Anthony Neil Wedgwood Charles Lynton "Tiny" Benn -Blair would dare put up his hand for a second run at politics -- and have any prospect of success -- surely speaks as much to the terminal degradation he and his tinsel-souled ilk have visited upon once great (or so it's rumored) Britain, as to their having elevated Obama-patterned pathological narcissism to use as a measure of what presently passes, politically, for perfection.

Gag me.
Call me lacking in British insights but I didn't realize Blair was held in such low esteem. He was a bit of a white knight in our country during the Iraq war.

Admittedly I know little of the man except he spoke more eloquently than W on why it was necessary to invade Iraq.

I'm betting you don't think much of the current prime minister either. With that I do agree.
Exactly what I have felt. The Olympics is just bread and circuses to distract and placate the masses.Used for the same cynical purposes as those of the Roman Emporers.
After it's over everyone will eventually wake up to find that the girl has gone and taken their trousers and their wallet with her, leaving them with a numbing hangover and a few pleasant memories.