Even in a London with a twit-pendant haystack as mayor, not everything goes wrong all of the time. The torch which must next year bear the flame to the Reverend Tony's Blanched Sporty Pachyderm has emerged as a glorious icon
of both the promises of New Labour and the achievements of its spiritual heirs.
To begin with, the concept is shot through with the icky po-faced symbolism beloved of politicians, popular-but-serious creative types and other second-level purveyors of the advertiser's trade. The torch's design is meant as a reflection of the ideals of the Olympic movement: its triangular form relates to the "faster, higher, stronger" Olympic motto; to the fact that the 2012 Olympics will be the third held in London; to the three ostensible founding principles of the modern Games (sport, education and culture); to the gold, silver and bronze medals; to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the three main countries in which Britain has been bombing wogs in the name of world peace; to the real founding principles of the modern Games (profit, propaganda and pharmaceuticals); and so on and so forth. The torch also has eight thousand holes in it, because it will be carried by eight thousand runners over eight thousand miles at a rate of eight thousand commentator-hours per mile according to the national saccharine index.
Secondly, the torch represents a bonfire of the promises. "The Olympic torch is a universal symbol of the Games," said the chairbeing of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012; "and a low-carbon torch would have been an unequivocal demonstration of London's commitment to a truly sustainable Games." In 2007, EDF promised a low-carbon torch; they've been working on it for four years and have failed to meet the deadline, which is certainly an unequivocal demonstration of something or other. Indeed, a better symbol of the modern Conservative Party's (which is to say, the Reverend Tony's) characteristic mix of light-green rhetoric and true-blue imbecility can hardly be imagined. As if the point were not clear enough, a pledge to generate a fifth of the Blanched Pachyderm's energy from a local wind turbine has been abandoned, and at least ninety-one per cent of the energy on site will be from non-renewables. It is just possible that Sarah Palin will not be agitating for a US boycott of the Pachyderm.
Finally, and most artistically, the object itself is tacky in the extreme. While not quite attaining the level of the 2012 logo, which was randomly chopped into shape with the overgrown fingernails of some advertising executive's half-blind basement-bound progeny, the torch is a great, glittering monument to Blairite good taste: a gilded hybrid of truncheon and cheese-grater which needs only a leopardskin-patterned comfort handle and a luminous, rose-blue We Heart Human Rights
motto to pass as an authentic work by the author of New Labour, A Journey
and Daveybloke. When the eight thousand runners have done their duty, the torches they have carried will not be presented to them as a gratuity, let alone with an apology, but will be available for them to buy; which is perhaps most symbolic of all.