MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Summer overload takes on Olympic proportions

I’ve no problem admitting it.

I’ve hit the wall already, and it’s only the middle of May. I can’t turn on the radio but Ray Houghton is shouting at me while he promotes something or other.

Flick on the TV and Proctor and Gamble — Proctor and Gamble! — are advertising the fact that they’re washing the flag Ireland’s Olympic team are bringing to London.

Euro 2012! The Olympics! Can you stand it? Well, you can question it.

Euro 2012 is being held in Poland and the Ukraine, which are bang next door to the rest of Europe and in line for the most shameless politician-meets-bandwagon antics since that ancient Italian president disgraced himself at the 1982 World Cup final when Marco Tardelli got his goal against West Germany.

It’s a hop, skip, and jump from places like Germany and Italy, so you would expect people like Angela Merkel — or “boss” as we now know her — to prowl the VIP sections, or anywhere they see a camera.

Not quite. Nine European countries declared they would not attend a summit planned for Ukraine this month in protest at the treatment of former opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in the country, who has been put in jail and beaten, and Ukraine has reacted testily — accusing people of trying to “politicise” the football championships.

If you’re unsure of the link, it’s because in political circles the summit snub is seen as advance warning of a similar decision regarding Euro 2012. It tells you something, of course, that Ukrainian government figures seem more worried about heads of state staying away from the football championships than the actual political summit itself, but the eastern European nation is relying on a successful European championship to help smooth its acceptance into the European Union.

(Why it wants to join us as we rearrange the deckchairs on that ship, well, you’d have to ask them).

Reports Tymoshenko was beaten in prison have hardened attitudes among western politicians, and the presidents of Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic said they wouldn’t attend the summit, which had to be cancelled.

(Ukraine newspapers reacted in measured tones to what they saw as German-led opposition to the summit: “In 1941,” one editorial read, “the German administration forced naked Ukrainian girls into goods wagons bound for Germany...”) Dear reader, I leave it to you to decide whether or not you feel having the Euros in Ukraine is appropriate or not, never mind attending.

What with bombs going off in cities there and a long-running outcry against a proposal to decriminalise prostitution for the duration of the championships, there’s no shortage of factors to influence your decision.

The other big gig coming up in a few weeks is the Olympics. Surely we can all be happy that’s happening so close to us, you ask? Well, consider this man’s reaction to the announcement that London had landed the Games: “I hung my head in my hands... I just thought the whole package stank... We’d landed ourselves this monster and I remember just thinking, ‘This is a disaster.’ ... from the very beginning, I was in a state of gloom.”

The speaker is Iain Sinclair, author of such books as Lights Out For The Territory, Hackney: That Rose-Red Empire and London Orbital. Sinclair is an eccentric in the mould of William Blake, a psychogeographer linking environment, history and literature in his books, but he’s also a refreshing alternative voice to the vast amount of unquestioning praise for the Olympics, a lot of which seems to be based simply on the fact that it’s Very Close To Us. Sinclair says the Olympic stadium and surrounding infrastructure has ruined the part of London in which they stand.

“The whole thing took on an invasion psychosis,” Sinclair said in an interview last year. “A huge level of paranoia that evolved its own architecture.”

Over the top? Maybe. Sinclair doesn’t exactly help his case when he describes the now-developed area as a “wilderness”, but he makes some telling points elsewhere.

“One of the consequences of the great Olympic village is the privatisation of public space and the huge growth in the apparatus of security.

“So this is the legacy that all the fuss has been about: a flat-pack stadium, an aquatic centre that looks like a concrete factory, a gigantic artwork and an enormous shopping mall. I don’t think that it’s been worth it.”

Will that stop you watching or attending the Games? No. But it’s something to bear in mind the next time someone thinks an Olympics here would be a good idea.

* michael.moynihan@examiner.ie Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx


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