Olympic Sponsors’ Relay Comes To Lewes

It is great idea, the Olympic Torch Relay – inspirational in an epic way. The flame of the Olympic spirit lit in Greece and then carried through Britain, brought to the people in advance of this the “People’s Games” – the great 2012 British Olympic Games.

Everyone would get to see it – Prime Minister David Cameron made it for the photo opportunity at Woodstock near his country retreat…

The Queen was amazed by it at Windsor Castle and Prince Philip was thrilled – or was he being ironic?

London Mayor Boris Johnson did his inimitable bit for the press….

..and everyone’s hero David Beckham did what he does best. He stood there and smiled for the cameras.

The cameras were out in my home town of Lewes too this week when it was our turn to thrill to the excitement of actually seeing the torch relayed through our streets.

The crowds gathered….

…some small children were handed Union Jack flags to wave emblazoned with the logo of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper The Sun…..and then we waited, cheering van loads of policemen anticipating a riot no doubt, we cheered anything that moved, even a harassed looking man in a suit rushing down the middle of the High Street talking desperately on his mobile phone.  It was all in good fun, we waited patiently and then, we heard the cheers, the great Olympic relay procession was arriving….I have never seen anything like it.

Everywhere, in the run up to the actual games which start in a couple of weeks, everywhere we are confronted with the big guys of this festival – the Olympic Sponsors. The crowds roared, well they’d been standing there for nearly an hour awaiting the exciting moment. First, in blazing red, the Coca Cola coach blaring pop out pop songs on its tinny speakers….

 …then more cheers as along came Samsung with a troup of rather desperate-looking people in Samsung uniforms….

and finally, everyone’s, er,  favourite these days, the bankers….Lloyds TSB with some nice people from the bank waving and looking slightly embarrassed, even surprized as the small children waved and cheered. I suspect everyone was just willing to cheer anything that went by in anticipation of the great Olympic Torch sighting. Don’t blink though at these events because, after all the big coaches and the music….

a bloke with a torch flit past and then, seconds later, it was all over. A shame that his effort was so upstaged by those giants from the big bad world of corporate sponsorship who, here in Lewes at least, showed just how much they misunderstand the original spirit of the games. We wanted to see the torch just like we want to see the Olympic athletes when the time comes for the games proper. I hope that we can contain the vulgarity and commercial cynicism of the sponsors, who are stamping their authority and their branding on the proceedings with unprecedented aggression.

Maybe that man in Henley was more in the spirit of the original games when he streaked in front of the torch with Free Tibet written on his back.

After-all the original Greek athletes performed naked but that would never be allowed these days…..

…where would the sponsors stick their logos?

The idea behind the Olympic Torch Relay started with the infamous Berlin Olympics and there too, a noble idea was soon branded with distasteful imagery that had nothing to do with the Olympic spirit.

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