As the Commonwealth Games (CWG) that New Delhi hosted in 2010 showed, the run-up to any sporting extravaganza is more thrilling than the event itself. The drama usually centres around the state of unpreparedness and confusion. The CWG proved that racy exposés on leaking washrooms and squeaking doors are a potboiler that makes the other half of the narrative - running, jumping, swimming, winning, or losing - look like an insipid daytime television drama. What the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics has further proved is that being caught unready is no longer a Third World prerogative.
The biggest worry in organising the 17-day spectacle that begins July 27 is, of course, security. While intelligence inputs, both within Britain and from the US, had warned that such a jamboree would be a perfect target for terror attacks, efforts to prevent them have been far from fool-proof. At the last minute, the British government had to scale up the number of troops committed to meet the shortfall arising out of a private security firm's inability to supply enough civilian guards. Leaked videos showed many of those said guards snoozing or listening to music during training sessions; many could not speak or understand English, others failed to detect hidden weapons.
The chinks are not just limited to the armour of security. News reports indicated that the main highway connecting Heath-row airport to central London was still being repaired, while structural flaws were being detected in newly-constructed flyovers. What is heartwarming, though, is the air of unconcern that officials everywhere seem capable of exuding. The CWG officials had drawn a distinction between the levels of preparedness expected in the developed world as against the developing. That exit clause not being available to him, London mayor Boris Johnson has turned to history to argue that the preparations this time are far superior to what war-ravaged London could come up with while organising the 1948 Olympics. The real sport, it seems, always lies outside the tracks, pools and rinks.