Boris Johnson probably put it best when he said this morning that the geiger-counter of Olympo-mania was “creeping towards the red zone”. The UK is abuzz and senior politicians – already relieved that the Olympics are finally distracting from Britain’s economic woes – have entered fully into the manic spirit.
First off, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt provided some unexpected entertainment when he waved a hand bell rather too enthusiastically during the “all the bells” celebration on HMS Belfast to mark the start of the games. The bell flew off its handle, narrowly missing the crowds on deck. “Oh, oh dear! Are you all right? Health and safety!”, Mr Hunt cried, in a very British way. He later recovered enough to laugh off the incident with a humour rare among politicians who have suffered televised mishap. “I was ringing a bell in a very excited way and the bell actually collapsed in my hand and went flying off,” he told the BBC. “It was a clanger, if you’ll forgive the awful pun.”
David Cameron managed to avoid any such mishaps, but was clearly on the excited side himself in a morning Olympics interview. “It’s very exciting. I think there is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation, because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on earth. It’s going to be an incredible few weeks for our country,” he enthused.
The prime minister seemed particularly keen to point out that the festivities would be a blend of both ancient and modern. “Someone asked me yesterday what face of Britain do you want to put forward? Is it Blur or the Beefeaters?” Mr Cameron said. “Frankly, it’s both. We’ve got a great past, a very exciting future and this is a great moment for our country, so we will seize it.”
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, the London mayor himself, is predictably bursting with ebullient anticipation. Preparing to welcome the torch to City Hall on Friday, before it completes its long journey to the stadium tonight, the mayor raved: “It’s extraordinary to watch the way in which the torch has this benign contagion in some people. It moves them in ways you simply don’t expect… A big, big thing is happening, and I think future anthropologists will want to ask what Neolithic feelings are being evoked by this flickering bit of burning gas: that’s the question.”
However, when pressed about who would be lighting the Olympic cauldron tonight – possibly the best kept secret of the games so far – even Mr Johnson refused to let any names slip. One person, however, is firmly off the agenda. “It’s unlikely to be Bashar al-Assad, that’s right, he’s not going to be there,” the mayor confirmed.