The end of innocence began in 1972 with Alan Minter's bronze and dead Israeli athletes

The bells have just been ringing and there are 12 hours to go before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.

London fop, Mayor and covert anarchist Boris Johnson has become the most famous man in the world, something that the cast of Have I Got News For You still can’t believe and something it is best not to think about for too long.

His speech last night with the reference to Mitch Romney minded me of the scene in Orwell’s 1984 when the crowds in Trafalgar Square are still roaring even when it is announced that Eurasia’s previous enemy is now its ally. Boris as Big Brother? It could happen, it really could, maybe it already has.

So, the Olympics. My disillusionment came early, in a cheap Guernsey hotel in 1972. I was there with my sister and grandmother and I wanted light-middleweight Alan Minter to win gold in the boxing (he got a bronze).

When the TV was turned on for the highlights of the fight I didn’t see men in gloves, I saw men in balaclavas and the news that athletes had been murdered. I was 11 years old and it was the first time I’d ever heard of a country called Israel.

But after that, of course, it was athletics all the way. I liked Ovett more than Coe and I looked forward to the Olympics as much as the football World Cup, I took a lovely girl to see Chariots of Fire in Leicester Square.

But then came the jetpacks and the 1984 games in Los Angeles and the professional creep. It was like the moment that you realise it is utterly stupid to watch the Eurovision Song Contest and never watch it again. Now you can bet on just about every event in the Olympics and that is just. Plain. Wrong.

Aside from the gambling and the drugs and the taint of cheats, the Olympics are now a spectacle that are used by nations to boost business and prove that most humans can be taught to run faster and do better than the other humans if enough money is invested in them… lab rats, Pavlov’s dogs, you name it.

The sponsors I won’t even bother to talk about, it is too shameful and I know my disappointment at the replacement of Corinth with Vegas isn’t matched by most people in this country who are genuinely excited about the event.

But if there is any event that matches the nightmares of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and the estuary accents of UK athletes who have trained so much they have forgotten to improve themselves in other disciplines such as reading, then this is it.

Bread and circuses? Nothing much has changed since Juvenal’s day and certainly not since Orwell wrote 1984, a book that was originally called 1948 but the conditions described therein too closely resembled Post-War rationing Britain so the publisher changed it.

Divert the people and they will vote for you, divert the people and they will raise the bunting even though the recession is killing them. When these Olympics are over and the last running spike has left its imprint, reality will bite and this unfolding Western tragedy will engulf the-people-who-stopped-reading.

But, hang on, what’s that ghost? Who’s that spectre? Is it Jacob Marley? Oh, it’s my 11-year-old self screaming at me and telling me to shut up, grow up and cheer up. Just because Alan Minter didn’t win gold and those athletes were killed didn’t mean my innocence had to die as well.

He has a point and I am humbled by him, so I will choke back all world-weary cynicism and dredge deep into my Olympian dreams and admit that deep, deep down I really want Mo Farah to win the 5,000 and 10,000 metres… but I’m not ringing any f*kcing bells, OK?

Monty (642 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.