“Millionaire at centre of ‘fat cat’ row will carry the Olympic torch through streets of East London” howled the Daily Mail, in one of its ‘world exclusives’.
Downpage, there were 57 varieties of indignation from the good folk of the north-eastern London borough of Redbridge, all queuing up to express their disgust and dismay at the soiling experience of having someone not themselves carrying the sacred flame through their hallowed land.
Charlotte Law, 19, was typical (of Daily Mail reportage, at any rate): “I would be much better at carrying the torch than him. At least I’m from around here. Did he have to apply like everyone else? I don’t think so. It’s a disgrace.”
But no, not Bob Diamond. It was someone most of them had never heard of, until coached by Mail hacks. Some bloke called Sir Martin Sorrell. Something to do with a big advertising company and a scandal. He’d asked for much too much money (don’t they all?) and been told he couldn’t have it.
We don’t want his sort round here. Michael Aldridge, a 51-year old care worker, summed it all up: “It goes completely against the Olympics spirit, but it’s not about that any more, it’s about money.”
Let me put you right on that, Michael: it always was. Even in ancient Greece, where a prodigious amount of vicious cheating and betting invested the quadrennial games like a swampy miasma. Come to think of it, the Olympic Torch Relay itself isn’t exactly of blameless historical pedigree. It was introduced in 1936, just in time to fanfare the Nazi games. The Nazis were very good at that sort of thing.
But, coming back to Sir Martin, what is it – precisely – that he has, or hasn’t, done to qualify as one of 8,000 bearers of the Torch? Well, behind the scenes, he has since 2005 been giving a good deal of his valuable time to promoting and supporting, pro bono, the London Olympics. And, as if that weren’t disqualification enough, he has actually been asked by the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland to carry the torch!
Outrageous. You know Sir Martin’s problem? He’s not one of the Little People – except of course in the literal sense. He’s one of them, the elite, who rule our lives. But then, the last I heard, the Olympics – motto Higher, Faster, Stronger – is all about elitism. It’s a gladiatorial contest where the best man – and woman – always wins. How inegalitarian is that?