Brussels Diary: No More Whinging In The Back of A Cab Edition

Alexandra Swann gives us her take on this week, including her unexpected volte face about the Olympics

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A volte face about the Olympics from the back of a cab
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Alexandra Swann
On 5 August 2012 08:13

This week I almost started to lose hope in humanity. 

Between the ever increasing warnings of economic doom; reading morning papers filled with murders; witnessing so many of my friends tormented over all manner of pains; hearing reports that Olympic officials may have spent £19,000 of taxpayers’ money on a bottle of cognac; Korean badminton players; realising it’s nearly a year since the hell of the London riots; accidentally buying a copy of the Daily Mail; having to spend 180 Euros to make a two day round trip to Brussels just to sign a form; the weather back to fifty shades… August can be a surprisingly difficult month.

More than anything, I miss work. I really love my job and the people I work with so this extended break is frustrating.

Most of the news this week, murders and “honour” killings aside, has been consumed by the Olympics and even I, a total Olympics scrooge, have been drawn to the television to marvel over the gymnastics. Regardless of the left’s woefully dull screams of “Elitism! Elitism!” and the amusing displeasure of a particular Tory, the Olympics are going rather well.  In fact, I love the Olympics. (Editor: Oh lord, not you too!)

My own volte face was a direct result of the wisdom of a London taxi driver; content to whinge about the distinct lack of promised tourism and my disgust over the Soviet overtones of the “Olympic family”, my driver – in the way only a London cab driver can – put me firmly in my place. 

The Olympics are a celebration of discipline and success, he told me, of the hard work and dedication of the athletes, and to insult the Olympics is to insult their efforts.  And he was right. 

This week a number of columnists across the board have been quick to point out that the British Olympic team is dominated by those who have been privately educated. Only seven percent of young people are fortunate enough to be educated at a fee-paying school yet in the 2008 Beijing Olympics 37 per cent of the medals won by Team GB were won by one of those seven percent.

There is no doubt that this screams of injustice and should worry the Department of Education and parents alike, but I put it to you that the argument that a great deal of sporting – as well as academic – talent is squandered by our excuse of a public education system is an argument for another day. 

Of course the children of parents who choose to channel their post-tax income into their child’s education, an education that allows for competitive sport, that instils a mantra of hard work alongside the swimming pool and lacrosse pitches, are more likely to become top athletes.  It is no coincidence that the sports we excel at are those that require expensive equipment.

It is also obvious that we need selective education, schools vouchers and to encourage competitive sport from a young age. But to whine in The Guardian as the competition is in full flow, before promptly forgetting all about this great injustice five minutes after the closing ceremony, detracts from the dedication and commitment of the athletes just as much as my whinging in the back of a London cab.

For now we should be celebrating the success of British athletes rather than worrying about how they were educated and to do otherwise undermines our national spirit and to be perfectly honest is a negative, miserable thing to do.

Despite the various factors of gloom we Brits hold it together with a healthy dose of stoicism as the rain falls. Because we are British. It is what we do. We were appalled by the antics of Chinese and Korean badminton players because they run directly against the British national spirit of fair play.  We should celebrate and be proud of the efforts of athletes who have no doubt poured their hearts into their chosen sport and leave the political bickering for a later date. 

As a country we have so much to be proud of, so much to be thankful for; we have more Olympic medals than France; House of Lords reform looks to be shelved; Eurocrats are still on holiday so for another week or two our remaining freedoms are safe; if you squeeze your eyes tightly enough you can momentarily forget that George Osborne is still running the economy.

And if that wasn’t enough to draw a reluctant smile, I hear the Conservative Future elections are coming up and there are few things more amusing than that.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading. If you fancy visiting my website please go to www.alexandraswann.com and if not then at least follow me on twitter: @AlexandraLSwann

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