thank you, Mr. Romney. No one else could have managed to unite the country so completely with a few disobliging sentences. All the PR gurus and advertising mavens and feelgood experts must be chewing their arms off with rage, since no campaign they could have devised would have done the job more efficiently.
Mr. Romney, I suspect, does not understand quite a lot of things. The one thing he really does not comprehend is that Britons are the only ones who are allowed to bitch and grouse and grumble about their own shortcomings. The British have a slightly odd habit of taking a twisted pride in thinking of themselves as a little bit crap. Britons moan and groan about their football team crashing out of tournament after tournament; they know they no longer rule the waves; they understand very well that the tube and the NHS are a bit of a shambles. Mr. Romney clearly has no time for the shambolic; he dreams of the coming American century, the shining city on the hill. They know their city will always be a little dusty.
But just because Brits take an almost perverse pride in the crapness of everything, adore to complain, and indulge in heavy irony rather than Pollyanna-ish sanguinity, it does not mean that anyone may come in from the outside and tell them how feckless and pointless and hopeless they are. That is their job. (Obviously not every last British person will subscribe to the shambolic sentiment.)
Within hours of Romney talking of the British public’s lack of enthusiasm for the games, calling poor old Ed Miliband ‘Mr Leader’, as if he were a character in Star Trek, and saying he had just looked out of the ‘backside of Number Ten Downing Street’, seemingly unaware that backside means arse in British English, the hashtag #romneyshambles was trending on Twitter. Outside, the British public was crowding the streets, hanging from lampposts as the Olympic torch went by, roaring with approval in Hyde Park as Boris Johnson said ‘There’s this chap called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we’re ready. Are we ready?’ I thought; I think they are ready.
Good old Mitt, with his extraordinary lack of grace and shocking manners, has added vastly to the gaiety of nations, and to this one in particular. They may criticise themselves as if grumbling were itself an Olympic sport, but when an outsider doubts them, they rise up like tigers. As Churchill said … we will defend our island. The Romneyshamble jokes came thick and fast, and everyone seemed to decide dear old Blighty might be able to put on a party after all.
I suddenly realised that, for all the fumbles and missteps (I do think that getting a hamburger chain to sponsor a sporting event is quite odd), it is damn well the greatest show on earth and this crumbling old island nation might just do it proud.
Watching the happy crowds, I felt oddly patriotic. Thanks to Mitt Romney, I became fired with Olympic zeal and Corinthian spirit.
Go, Team …
A gloomy day today and I did not take the camera with me. Here is a nice picture of a great horse and rider instead to get you in the Olympic mood.
Mary King on Imperial Cavalier, Getty Images