Back in the sixties you could buy all manner of inexpensive novelties. One, I recall, was the multi-coloured ballpoint pen. It had a number of different ink tubes, which you selected by pushing down a plastic switch on the barrel.
Its main limitation was that it was useless. ‘Not fit for purpose’ I think is the current descriptor. As soon as the writer placed any pressure on the nib the metal tip would retract as the selector disengaged. Frustrated owners would reselect their chosen colour repeatedly, until the mechanism would fail and you would find yourself one shade short of a rainbow.
How much would you pay for such a device today? 75p, 99p? You will find them in a supermarket near you any day now – for the princely sum of £5 if you are interested.
They are part of a range of ‘official merchandise’ for the Olympic Games. For the same price you can also buy a key ring with a small soft-toy figure of London 2012 mascots Wenlock or Mandeville (no, I have no idea why, either). The figures look like some hellish offspring of Cyclops and one of the Teletubbies. Presumably the Great British public are expected to buy this tat in nationalistic fervour to celebrate the world’s greatest sporting event.
Sadly the Corinthian spirit has long since been sold to the highest bidder. As you might expect the ‘official restaurant’ of the games is McDonald’s and the ‘official drink’ Coca Cola. Fair enough, sponsors are obviously required, but the commercial deals mean that no other company can use the Olympic rings.
A butcher somewhere in the West Country was reportedly ordered to remove a display of his sausages he had constructed into the five-ring logo to celebrate London 2012.
Apparently any commercial organisation which hasn’t stumped up huge sums of cash for the privilege is forbidden from even using the words ‘London 2012’.
So to protect the Mercury editor’s budget, here’s to British success in the “international sporting competition taking place in England’s capital city during the current solar-cycle”.