Ian Martin plans for the unthinkable with an emergency four-hour Olympic lunch
Monday Urbanism conference, The Future Look of London. Summary: new bridge incorporating luxury flats, municipal swimming pools replaced by luxury flats, the creation of ‘supported housing’ by putting luxury flats on stilts.
Tuesday To the RIPBA to hear the Prince of Wales stumbling through the speech he’s been rehearsing for the last month.
It’s very boring. All my jokes have been ‘toned down’ and rendered meaningless. For the record, Will Alsop was NOT in the original draft ‘disappearing up his own path’.
Wednesday Emergency meeting of the Olympic Rebadging Task Force. They’re all ‘emergency’ these days, but today’s is especially dramatic.
We convene at the Olympic Delivery Site itself. Windy and freezing and utterly desolate. ‘This area will be totally transformed,’ gushes Colin from PFI Liaison. ‘Once those old cash and carry warehouses have been cleared away, they’ll be making a start on the media centre…’ Nobody has the heart to tell him he’s looking at it.
A Rolls-Royce with tinted windows and a personalised number plate – LON12 YAY – pulls up and disgorges Suzi Towel, Olympics minister. She’s wearing a beautifully tailored pinstripe suit and announces her reinvention as one of the most belligerent quango chairpeople in Britain. With her are Treasury Steve, and Corrine from Sponsorship. Suddenly, everyone realises what’s at stake.
Suzi wishes us a brisk good morning. ‘Morning Dame Suzi,’ we mumble, as though we’ve done something wrong even before we’ve started. She gives it to us straight, with bluntness and unpleasantness. These are tough times and a way must be found to reduce the costs of our task force. By half. Accordingly, we are split into two teams and told to come up with a strong marketing idea for the Worst Case Scenario: an Olympic site left half-built when the money runs out. The winning team will be the new slimline Olympic Rebadging Task Force. The losers will be sacked and then humiliated on the telly.
The rival team – they’ve called themselves ‘50 Per Cent’ – disappear with a sceptical Corrine. They’ve headed into Soho to solicit ideas from some of the country’s leading blue-sky thinksultants. My team (‘Spartan’) with Treasury Steve in tow are also bound for Soho, but we’re having a four-hour lunch instead. Our reasoning is that if we can’t brainstorm our way to victory we don’t deserve to win, plus we can put it all on expenses and it might be the last time…
Our usual meeting room has been done up like Sir Alan Sugar’s fantasy bollocking suite
From soup to cheeseboard, we float ideas for a marketing rescue of the Bankrupt Games. Can we ask for an international whip-round? Air-freight bits of the Beijing Olympics over? Designate a ‘self-build’ Athletes’ Village? No. We can’t. Treasury Steve’s contribution to all this is theatrical wincing. Then we have a breakthrough, and large Armagnacs all round.
We return to find our usual meeting room has been done up to resemble Sir Alan Sugar’s fantasy bollocking suite. Steve and Corrine take up their positions and eventually Dame Suzi emerges scowling through the glass door. 50 Per Cent’s idea is pretty good: let Banksy bugger about on the abandoned Olympic site with massive earthmovers, to create something sarcastic that can be seen by tourists in an aeroplane, or hot-air balloon.
Our Worst Case Scenario Clawback is as follows. 1. Leave some buildings ‘deliberately’ half-completed. 2. Get the International Olympic Committee to recognise parkour – that urban scrambling thing young people do in ‘street clothes’ – as a competitive sport. 3. Rebadge the abandoned building site as the world’s first Olympic Parkour Run. 4. Make sure competitors are responsible for their own insurance.
Of course, we win. Our prize is an Abba Karaoke Night at one of Dame Suzi’s three London residences. The losers, including Corrine from Sponsorship, pile into a minibus and are taken away for questioning by Adrian Chiles.
Thursday Redesign my mental landscape, giving it a more ‘magic arborealistic’ feel, with elevated crazy paving and comedy vegetables.
Friday Give up on my museum extension in Newcastle. It has consistently addressed its classical surroundings yet has so far received no answer, which strikes me as sheer insolence.
Saturday Call from client: ‘we need to push the quality threshold…’ Great! …downwards’. Bugger.
Sunday God, I must go on a diet. Or at least think about it. I do some ‘outline planning’ in the recliner.