A feudal royal visit and london 2012

I’ve been trying to get my head around the Olympics this summer. On the one hand, it’s a wonderful opportunity for London to shine, for British people to show their enthusiasm for sport, hospitality and good cheer, and on the other hand it’s as though the whole event is a state appearance by Pageant Obsessed Fascist Overlords. Due to diplomatic considerations, Londoners have been told to be friendly and supportive and not mind the ruinous bill, masses of stone-faced guards and total lack of access to any events unless they’re willing to sell their house to attend.

I am planning to attend one event, the Olympic road race, but this is only possible because the competitors are travelling around an eighty mile loop and the organisers probably assumed it was too costly to try and charge everyone in South West London fifty quid to stand on their own street corner.

Overall, it’s weird. Why would any city decided to spend eleven billion pounds to find out who can throw a stick the furthest? Or who can run in a straight line the fastest? Even if it’s supposed to be a recreation of the Ancient Greek Olympics, they all took part naked and no one was on a BMX. The connection is pretty tenuous.

But I've now realised what's going on. Possibly because of some deep unconscious previous life regression, or the chance of being incarcerated without access to a lawyer for a month, I can see that the London Olympics is basically a medieval royal visit. Everything is the same. In the medieval event, once every few years your town and its castle is visited by the crown; a bunch of unelected, violent freeloaders and all their hangers-on. The boss of your area kow-tows to them and breaks the bank feeding them, housing them, lavishing them with gifts and generally treating them like royalty, which is what they are. The years of lean living that are going to follow such a visit are quietly ignored. Talking about that is plain un-patriotic.

Amid frantic construction and rising budgets, the visit approaches. Some years are worse than others. If the crown is unpopular, there’s talk of plots, potential assassinations and other shenanigans. Some of them might be real threats, others would be concocted by the crown themselves with the plan of fingering a particular religious minority or foreign power. You’ll either get dragged into a real plot or fingered for a non-existent plot. Either way, it’s red-hot poker time.

You watch the king arrive and try not to shake too much. It wouldn’t be so bad if you actually got a look at the king when he was in the castle, or got to nibble on a roasted lamb-shank, but you may as well nibble your own leg. If fear of assassination was in the air, there’d be soldiers around the castle and on the roads ready to kill anyone looking suspicious. The highways would be cordoned off, the guards out; best to hide inside a hollow log for the duration of the visit.

There are some differences between London 2012 and a crowd of fat, jewelled people stuffing their faces while watching an archery event. For example, there may be an aircraft carrier moored on the Thames this summer; that’s way more impressive than a catapult. London 2012 has also got a very memorable logo and lots of plastic memorabilia. You never saw anything like that in the fourteenth century! Apart from that, there's... er....

Turnip, anyone?