Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Olympic Insecurity

I have met some doormen in my time. Occasionally, some were polite and friendly, but others were distant and disinterested. Many were unnecessarily surly, perhaps unaware that I really did only want a pint with a mate, or maybe just to throw some shapes into the early hours. Ah, those were the good times; these days I'd be more likely to throw a spinal disc herniation. The belly would wobble more in this second decade of the twenty first century than it once did, too. I had a baby-face when I was younger, and that of course may have been the reason I used to struggle.

Mulling on London's doormen, I was surprised to learn of a new trend which wouldn't have come up in the days when there was still some doubt about whether I was legally allowed to drink (there's no doubt now -- these days they direct me straight to the snug and bring me a half of light and bitter along with the evening newspaper). It seems that some bouncers are now checking Facebook and other app's on people's SmartPhones in an effort to ensure that people are using legitimate id's. This is all very well, but since it doesn't say Siddie Nam in my passport I would have immediately been given the classical "...not tonight mate..." speech and sent on my way. Another evening thirsty, lonely, and unable to strut my funky stuff.

I wonder how many of London's youths these days have suffered a similar indignity? I would think most people in their early twenties are, just like the rest of us, Facebook fanatics, but what if you really happened to be Billy No Mates? Perhaps you wouldn't be going out anyway, I suppose.

The streetwise young people of the UK's major population centres are well able to fend for themselves, so I won't worry about them too much more here -- have a good evening everyone, and don't do anything I wouldn't do. Meanwhile, what of visitors to the UK who will be invading in their tens of thousands in the next couple of months for the Olympics? What security trials and tribulations will they face? Well...
  • Bottled Water (and any other non-"official" drink) will be banned. Could be a security, threat, obviously. Or it could be a Pepsi, not a Coke.
  • Not more than one soft-sided bag per person, not more than 25 litres in capacity (that's a lot of Coke; at my age I'd be needing to visit the gents constantly)
  • They will be in range of anti-aircraft artillery deployed even as they fly in to this proud and free country (see here for rapier missiles deployed on the peaceful and ancient common-land of Blackheath).
Compared to a rapier missile, I'd take the big chap outside the Slug and Lettuce any day. He may be a bit of a grump, but he has a vocabulary of a good couple of hundred words and phrases (like "no trainers", and "you looking at me, mate?"). You know where you are with a man like this. The Rapier would creep up on you, and the guys operating the metal detector at the Olympic Park (or Heathrow Airport) are far more likely to take to you one side while slipping on a rubber glove and greasing a finger).

I worry about our country sometimes. London is a wonderful, tolerant place -- it is one of the great things about this super city. I fear it won't feel like it though when we welcome guests from around the world in summer. Before you say anything, I acknowledge that there is a real security risk around the Olympics and, sadly, some misguided people out there believe it is OK to strap a bomb to themselves and maim and kill innocent people. No you don't; not in my town, thanks very much. But I just think we could be a bit more discrete about defending ourselves. Wouldn't it have been better just to keep quiet about the military and intelligence operations taking place, for example, rather than plaster our national insecurity all over every news bulletin? Surely it's better for our own purposes that the potential enemy, whoever it might be, does not know how we propose to fend them off? I can't see how it helps to have all these things out in the open, worn as a badge of honour, like an Olympic medal. It seems to me to have made quite a few Londoners a bit nervous.

If we really have to be so touchy about it all, perhaps a few big blokes in bow ties standing near the entrances to the Olympic venues should be enough to see off any bother. "You got any ID mate? Sorry..."

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