When I was 10 I was the fastest runner of 100 yards at our village primary school. I represented our district in county regional races held at Carrow Road, home of Norwich City football club, but the standard was too high for me and I was not placed.
Apart from statutory games and agonising cross-country runs at the grammar school I later attended, that was the end of my athletic career.
That does not mean I will not enjoy watching the supreme efforts of athletes from more than 200 countries as they compete for Olympic glory over the next few weeks. Their dedication to becoming the best in the world at their particular discipline must be admired and I expect to be captivated by their performances. But the performances of some of those organising the Games has been less spectacular. The failing of security firm G4S to recruit and train sufficient guards beggars belief and we must be thankful there are still enough soldiers left (just) to get the government and the organising committee, Locog, off the hook.
Locog has made other decisions that appear to limit the potential for this country to benefit from hosting the event. We’ve been told constantly that the Olympics will help lift the UK out of recession. But some of the rules Locog has imposed seem to contradict that.
For instance, a Norfolk farming family, which I must not name for reasons that will become clear, has, over the past few years, helped transform what was a polluted industrial site into what is now a beautiful Olympic Park.
They have grown and transplanted half a million water plants to restore five miles of riverbanks in and around the site. In addition, they have created nine acres of new wetlands, planted two-and-a-half acres of wet woodlands, eight acres of water meadows and more than three miles of drainage swales. The project is the largest urban river restoration ever undertaken in the UK and has also provided flood defence for 5,000 houses.
But they’re contractually barred from advertising what they have done until after the event because they are not a main sponsor. That privilege is restricted to multinationals that have paid megabucks to be associated with the British Games but can hardly be called British.
Advertising is restricted to multinationals that have paid megabucks to be associated with the British Games but can hardly be called British.
As Alexia Robinson, the founder of British Food Fortnight, who changed the dates this year to coincide with the Olympics, pointed out, the event’s brand police seem to be doing all they can to prevent the Games giving a boost to austerity Britain. For if a restaurant, pub or food outlet of any kind that is not a main sponsor advertises something that could be interpreted as being connected with the Olympics, they are likely to be sued. All they can try to do is appeal to patriotism.
Or be a bit shrewd, like another anonymous farming friend who, using locally grown barley, distils a delicious amber spirit usually associated with Scotland. He, too, had hoped to cash in on the tourist boom surrounding the Olympics but didn’t want to be prosecuted. To get around the problem, he has bottled a limited edition of his product. It is labelled with an English flag superimposed with a picture of barrels in which the spirit is matured, in a similar pattern to the Olympic rings.
Good luck, I say, and I hope he does good business.
David Richardson farms about 400ha of arable land near Norwich in Norfolk in partnership with his wife, Lorna. His son, Rob, is farm manager.