24 August 2008

London Has No Chance, But That's Just Fine

The London Games of 2012 will never live up to the Beijing Olympics.

For that we should all be thankful.

London might not have what Beijing had to offer – money, “volunteers” and a state-run machinery that left no details uncovered. And unless they open up Buckingham Palace for the dressage, London’s venues will seem like a pauper’s sandlots compared to the architecturally stunning Beijing creations.

But London has something in spades that Beijing offered little, if any at all.


You won’t need to get a permit to unfurl a protest banner. If you want to shout “Free Falklands” at the top your lungs around Trafalgar Square - go ahead. The bobbies won’t descend on you and drag your malcontent butt to the Channel Islands for “re-education.”

If you want tickets, you may buy them. If you care to surf the web and read about Amnesty International, have at it. If you decide to stroll through some of London’s rougher neighborhoods, nobody is going to stop you by putting up giant boards to hide them from view.

But if you expect everything to run smoothly, choreographed to perfection, then you won’t get it. There might be heavy traffic and lousy weather. A shuttle bus might be running late because of a flat tire. A not-so-cute little girl might even be seen during the opening ceremonies.

The thing about free people is that they’re allowed to screw up.

I’ll take the slightly disheveled Boris Johnson any day over any perfectly coiffed Chinese bureaucrat. During the closing ceremonies, the mayor of London stuck his hands in his pockets in a perfect moment of clarity – nobody told him what to do so he had to look around and figure it out on his own.

That a royal bastard child, the great grandson of a Turk and a bombastic former newspaperman could assume the leadership of one of the world’s greatest cities speaks well of Londoners. They voted him into office and then they railed against him when he banned alcohol consumption on the Underground. And if he ticks them off too much, he’ll be ex-mayor at the London Games.

Free people are like that. They can change their minds and get rid of their leaders.

Whatever happens in London, at least you can believe it to be real. It could be a carefree Olympics like the ones in Barcelona and Sydney, or it could be an Atlanta-esque semi-disaster. There will be plenty of planning, but it won’t cover every conceivable contingency.

But that’s OK. It’s more fun to be at a party where the lawn chair ends up in the pool than the one that you’re only allowed to look at, but not touch anything.

Goodbye, Beijing. Hello, London.

Let freedom reign.

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