The Olympics did not inspire a nation to get in shape – nor will Boris Johnson’s encounter coronavirus | The independent

One would think that launching a campaign to get the nation in shape eight years to the day from the opening of London Olympics would be an anniversary worth noting, not ignoring.

Could it really be eight years ago Boris Johnson stood outside Buckingham Palaceheaps glittering hero worship over the country’s gold-smeared sports stars for having “inspired a generation”? We were all so inspired, it turns out – so inspired was Johnson himself – that just eight years later he had to personally save the nation’s health again, this time in direct response to the fact that he had been hospitalized with Covid-19 after allowing himself to reach a truly inspiring 17 stones.

Sometimes, you see, and it will really shock you, the words that politicians say turn out to be nonsense.

Just to take an example, when Seb Coe and friends promised in 2005 to “inspire a generation to choose sports” through the London Olympics, what they had done was to see that the International Olympic Committee’s extra large blazerati was a little uneasy about the bleeding youth audience for the Olympics play. And if the kids are not watching, the sponsors are not happy – these sponsors are Cola and McDonald’s.

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So Coe sensibly made his pitch about the kids – music in the ears of the fat cats – and shocked the world (but primarily the French) by winning the bid. What he knew then, and what is still true now, is that no host of a major sporting event has ever been able to use it to build a lasting increase in sporting participation in their country. It’s just the noise that Big Mac middlemen want to hear.

In some ways, the government at the time was remarkably far-sighted. It must have known that its promises to “inspire a generation” were meaningless noise. Why else would it have sold out of school grounds across the country if it had not already succeeded that it actually did nothing meaningful to get people to use them?

And so, as Johnson promises to get Britain in shape and healthy, as he did eight years ago, it’s at least worth stopping to note that his government is also currently subsidizing travel to McDonald’s for £ 10 per tonne.

Ah, you say, but it’s different. This time Boris uses £ 2 billion on cycling and walking programs. If the government actually puts the infrastructure in place, people will use it.

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“The proof is clear that when governments provide the infrastructure, regeneration follows.” Those are the words, as one Boris Johnson said, also in 2012, at the opening of one cable car connection two pieces of industrial wilderness in east London, which recently turned out to be used by six commuters and now sell booze at night to try to stay in business.

If you really want to ride a bike and get in shape, the best thing you can do when it happens is get a job for Boris Johnson. As I followed him around what felt like every elementary school in London in the painful long build-up to the 2012 Olympics, it was not uncommon for him to arrive under the bicycle rental scheme introduced by Ken Livingstone, which Johnson named after him. self. . One of his helpers would not hide that they were also forced to get on the bike too, but that Johnson was an extremely slow cyclist and would get annoyed if they arrived before he did so they would regularly ride several laps around about block and waiting for him to catch up.

Nor was it long after Johnson’s response to Jamie Oliver’s campaign to make school dinners healthier was to write columns in The Daily Telegraph praising the groundbreaking parents who had responded to the change in the school menu by pushing pork pies through the gates at lunchtime. . “I say let people eat what they like,” he said at the time. And they did. And of course he did.

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But things have changed now. Johnson is clearly aware of that coronavirus passed through the corridors of power and took down Matt Hancock, Chris Whitty, Jenny Harries, Nadine Dorries, Dominic Cummings and a few more – and yet it was only for him that it became a matter of life and death. The problem is that it is his own very personal problem. And biking is his very own personal passion. Trying to bring to the nation your own personal interests is very good, but it rarely works.

However, it is easy politics. Inspiring a nation to get in shape is as easy as a promise it is possible to make. However, it is very difficult to do. And you do not even necessarily have to have seen the man who makes the promise, give all the same promises once before, and fail to live by a single lonely of them.

Still, every little bit helps.

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