I’m not sure what I found most bewildering on my TV last night – a smirking Boris Johnson waving the Olympic flag and raving about table tennis, or the sight of thousands of British people leaving their television sets to go out into the street and celebrate the start of Britain’s Olympic reign. Actually, that’s just completely incorrect – of course thousands of sporting couch potatoes getting all Big Brother-hysterical and group-huggie as if the Olympics were starting tomorrow absolutely took the cake.
Ignoring, if we can, China’s sporting and political exploits at their own event, it seems Great Britain’s method of creating an air of confidence and inevitable success is to come over all giddy-American with effortful jingoism taking to the streets of major UK cities. American is not, I’m sure, how classical scholar, outspoken journalist and London Mayor Boris sees it, though; “Ping pong is coming home,” he declared in Beijing. “Ping pong was invented on the dining tables of England and it was called whiff whaff. There you have, I think, the essential difference between us and the rest of the world. Other nations, such as the French, looked at the dining table and saw the opportunity to have dinner. We looked at the dining table and saw an opportunity to play whiff whaff.”
What a hero. Reclaiming ‘ping pong’ for the nation is, I’m sure, just one of his armoury of methods to ‘Keep The Olympics British’; hopefully he’ll get all John Major on us and resurrect spam fritters, rationing, Dixon Of Dock Green and forming an orderly queue, all in plenty of time for 2012.