One Olympic world, one Titanic dream, one 'legacy offsetting' scam
I can't go into details for reasons of national security, but rest assured our trip is being funded uncontroversially by certain 'lazy taxpayers'. Anyway, with so many billions of pounds needed next year for the 2012 sponsor recruitment campaign alone, now is not the time to quibble over luxury hotels and working banquets.
Tonight, in some provincial city beginning with X, we are the guests of a junior economic development minister. Li Chungchan or something, unless that was the toast. Eager, shortish, charcoal suit, monopitch hair, glasses, gurning Halifax-ad face... God, they all look the same don't they? Bloody economic development ministers. Apart from the automatic weapons everywhere and the edible food we could be in Doncaster exchanging business cards with Ed Miliband.
In the evening we visit the theatre to see a version of Starlight Express with pandas. Admittedly there are several high-speed rollerskating incidents, but thanks to the efficiency of state capitalism there are also spare pandas.
TUESDAY. To Blingnang, China's exciting new Second City. At the moment it's teeming with shuttle buses. Incoming Beijing residents are offloaded to a vast hospital for respiratory diseases, then the empty buses are filled with a fresh supply of animated good-looking young people to fill the Olympic venues.
Our task force is here to see world class city-making in practice. We get some top tips. For a start, you need to separate architecture from buildings. Architecture's great because you can lump it in with art, culture, any sort of entertainment you like. But buildings are shit. Buildings are boring. Architecture should have nothing to do with buildings.
We visit Blingnang Architect School #17, where the students are impeccably dressed and not at all sulky-looking and 'indie' like the ones at home. They stand, salute the flag and chant an affirmation of their faith: 'Architecture creates new social, economic and cultural tools and spaces! Architecture is accessible and flexible and improves citizens' living perceptions! Architecture is both a model and a platform for organic growth!'
Oh wait, this is all starting to sound horribly familiar.
WEDNESDAY. Today we're briefed on the principles of 'legacy offsetting'. This could be very handy indeed for our Olympics, as it's just like planning gain.
Instead of getting bogged down in all that tiresome paperwork 'demonstrating' that an Olympic archery range can be converted to a post-Games urban farm or whatever, legacy offsetting allows you to calculate the costs of enduring community benefit so you can spend the money somewhere more convenient.
Before we leave Blingnang there's a chance to see this in action. As reparation for house demolitions in Beijing, and in lieu of social benefit, a gigantic prison is being constructed here. It is more practical than 'public open space' and in order to silence any criticism has been designed by an acclaimed 'international' architect.
Samantha from Treasury is very interested. Her blue-sky unit is looking at ways to pay for a new generation of 'Titanic' prisons, as a cost-effective alternative to full employment and affordable housing. I thought they were called Titanic because of their massive scale, but Sam explains it's because with no funding these days for rehabilitation everyone in them is sunk.
THURSDAY. To Beijing, where at a glittering disco reception we meet up with thousands of other fact-finding Brits. Civil servants, consultants, media visionaries...hey, there's my mate Loaf, mayor of London. And Suzi Towel, our minister for Olympics, yay! They're doing the legendary John Travolta and Uma Thurman routine from Pulp Fiction. She's pretending to be passed out on the floor and he's miming the adrenaline injection.
FRIDAY. Weather's awful, the sky a low grey ceiling of ominous cloud. People are now openly acknowledging the possibility of moving the 2012 Games to Tamworth.
SATURDAY. Architectural tour of Beijing on the plane home, though can't be arsed with the headphones. The beauty of the ancient hutongs is rare indeed, and bear in mind the DVD was made a couple of years ago so they'll be even rarer now.
SUNDAY. Olympic breakfast followed by random drug testing in the recliner.