It seems that the Beijing Olympics will be one of the most tempestuous ever. We can't predict just what fancy dress interruptions might happen in the smog, and what banners are hung out of hotel windows, but this will not be an Olympics to miss. The political valves of this games will be throbbing red hot.
And in the midst of it all, for our personal British delectation and inspiration will be a tiny 14 year old boy standing high above a pool of water, waiting to throw himself in head first.
Little Tom Daley will be the big British story of the games, and an important antidote to the negative publicity being heaped on our gigantic commercial partner. The boy's story will, in effect, be a diversion from the growing pressure on the Chinese ruling dynasty to abandon the succesful political strategy of thousands of years and be more - well - British. Whether he will be aware of his role in this giant political game is hard to say. He is no Jesse Owens or John Carlos or Jack Johnson.
This exploitation of an innocent boy's sporting dreams is not going to be pretty to watch. But then, to be able to enjoy any true sport, the spectator must have a degree of faith in the integrity of the competition, which is why drugs are poisonous to sport. It's like watching a vicar give a sermon while scratching his arse, a politician shaking hands and looking at his watch.. It is a lie.
In the same way, for the Olympic Committee to expect the viewing billions to unremember the political context of the games is to turn 'suspension of disbelief' into an abandonment of critical faculties, and as such to insult the humanity of the spectatorship. All four billion of us, if some estimates are to be believed, and as such, is another nail in the coffin of anything which can be described as sport.
It might be said that the spectacle of this boy striving for pure personal achievement is a form of heroism. A poetic undermining of the vanity and inhumanity of the stampeding politicians and businessmen all around him. An oasis of calm in a storm of opportunism and that. No doubt the handsomely paid columnists in both the liberal guilt-sheets and gutter tabloids will peddle that line, but they will be paid by a media corporation which is making billions from promoting the Beijing Olympics, and from exploiting a child as cynically as any gang master or the shareholders of Primark.
Other hacks will be peddling the line that It's Only A Game. That sport and politics are 'not the same thing'. That we should just settle down for two weeks of branded running jumping and throwing at the corporation's quadrennial Summer Fete, and that should be good enough for us.
But what does that mean? Wallowing in the spectacle of the sleek Uber-mensch competitive ethic? Turning our brains off and blanking out the context of the event?
The truth is more that by becoming a huge cash cow, with a huge vested interest in attracting the advertising budgets of the nastiest political entities on earth - the global corporations, and keeping them in their place at the top of the power structure, sport has abandoned us. Professional sport is a contradiction in terms. Using it to promote classical, fascistic ideals of perfection and the superman is also death to the idea of human effort for its own sake. An act of worship to the thug who "solves everything with a sock on the jaw" as Orwell said of the gangster hero of American culture. And one using deadly combinations of robotising drugs to achieve its illusion. The fact that the Sydney Olympics is now a complete drug-re-written farce is all the evidence needed that the marketplace is just as tyrannical and cynical a coach as any East German sports commissar on a medals quota - or else.
The posturing between the US and China, with Tibet as the stamping ground, is quite natural for the great superpowers of any age. The disturbing question is whether these competing power blocs represent different ideologies, or just regional variations of the same cynical power politics, designed merely to preserve the status quo rather than improve life for the mass of people. "Is the CIA behind the "Free Tibet" campaign?"
Just a thought about the Chinese security guards who are protected the holy Olympic Flame as it passed through London.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Chinese specialise in dozens of different and superhuman martial arts techniques each guaranteeing the skilled master almost total invincibility against any enemy, no matter how large or vicious or determined?
You would have thought the Chinese government would have sent a few representatives of these noble 'arts' along to give an example of their sublime techniques where it mattered most. Instead we got the usual frantic western dust-up of flailing elbows and sudden trips, which is the reality of physical combat.
Another myth bites the dust. Alongside Sport, that is.
And how can this child of sport help being compared and contrasted with the millions of child labourers in India and other places, at the sweaty end of the Primark profit-chain? How can the sight of this child with the eyes of the world on him not remind us of the millions of lives which are destroyed each year so that we can cheer ourselves up cheaply with a new shirt or dress every week, so that consumerism can get its quick fix behind the bikesheds?
The answer to both questions must be because it must seem natural to us that these lives are destroyed. Otherwise, we would never shop again with confidence. Just as it seems natural and worthy that India is now a rich and powerful country, with a growing oligarchy of billionaires, and a market presence to be proud of. It is also natural that with access to such token wage bills, Indian entrepreneurs should attract manufacturing jobs away from the west, causing unempleyment, but at the same time, making unemployment more tolerable by reducing the cost of clothes in Primark. And naturally, unemployment is more tolerable in Britain than in India because we have a welfare state. So isn't it time India had one too? Now that she is an embryonic super power. In fact, isn't it time that the western business interestes started demanding that India bear its fair share of global poverty, and allow the jam ofmanufacturing employment to be spread a little thinner but a little wider. In other words, it is time that the CBI started lecturing India (and China) on social policies it would once have described as socialist.
This is assuming, of course, that the likes of the CBI do not relish the prospect of India sliding into a form of Neo-Feudalism, based essentially on slave labour - because if they are prepared to accept that political model in India, why should we assume they would be hostile to it in Britain? Especially as it seems to be so profitable. In fact, why should Digby Jones have any problems with the Chinese political model, given how stable and long-lasting it obviously is.
Whatever muffled outburts of defiance we get to see in the smoggy Peking august, it's safe to predict that there won't be many demands for fair housing benefit and access to universal trade union rights from many western media machines. And yet without this economic safety net, a system based on a vote every 5 years is a pale imitation of democracy, and as India - the biggest democracy of all - shows, can still run on slavery.
Beijing Olympics 2008