Cameron’s hold-the-vermouth tone reminded us that if the English historically possess a predominant national characteristic, it’s wit. Salt Lake has a population of 190,000, versus London’s 7.5 million. Moreover, the Salt Lake Olympics weren’t actually in Salt Lake. They were in a small gated condo in Deer Valley, unless they were in Kimball Junction.
These Games will be so threaded through the streets of London that oddsmaker William Hill took money bets on whether the torch procession would accidently catch the exuberant mayor’s hair on fire. Boris Johnson has a famously rampant blond mane, not to mention rampantly hilarious mouth. He once said: “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.”
Johnson insists that it’s only right the Olympics be in London because, “Virtually every single one of our international sports were either invented or codified by the British . . . and there I think you have the essential difference between us and the rest of the world.” Including, he insists, table tennis. The French looked at a table and “saw dinner,” he said. Whereas the British saw opportunity.
The odds on Johnson’s hair catching fire from the torch started out at 60-1. But then Johnson got a trim, and they rose to 100-1. “I didn’t know he had gone and got a sneaky haircut,” William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams told Reuters indignantly. “It’s not so wavy now so it’s less likely to catch fire.”
Still, there was a chance. The torch was so promiscuously paraded that it seemed to touch every monument and dignitary in the city: It ducked into Buckingham Palace, as well as Shakespeare’s Globe. It also rode on a double-decker bus.
Here, open-water swimmers will thrash in the dark eddy of Serpentine lake smack in the middle of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, led by Britain’s medal favorite Keri-Anne Payne, who was the subject of a tabloid headline this week that read, “At Last I Won’t Be Swimming With Sharks, Old Shopping Trollies and Dead Dogs.” Which was pretty good but didn’t come close to matching the all-time winner that ran in The Sunday Sport a few years ago: “Aliens Turned My Son Into a Fish Finger.”