Politicians love a sporting event on home turf, and none more so than an Olympics. Apart from providing the perfect excuse to lounge in front of some handball and slalom canoeing, they can also glean some of the glory from athletes’ successes.
But what happens when things go wrong?
This year’s Games have already seen a calamitous approach to security and a dearth of spectators at some events, and yet the general public seems entirely uninterested in these problems – perhaps what really matters is the results.
In this sense, Cameron would seem to have a clear political advantage over Miliband. With a free ticket to events, he has the perfect opportunity to provide a ready smile for the cameras after any British success. It may be a crude approach, a sort of “glory by association”, but it’s a well-trodden path and one Miliband will no doubt wish he could follow.
Of course, it’s not a flawless plan. Cameron has already waited expectantly for British victory in the men’s road race and diving events. In both cases Britain was expected a medal; in both cases they came away empty handed. Commentators have already coined a phrase for this uncanny ability to pre-empt sporting failure – the ‘Cameron Curse’. Tabloid punning is unlikely to worry the Government too much at this stage, but should Team GB fail to meet sky-high expectations, it could become a more serious problem.
The Games are expected to renew national confidence and breathe life into a flagging economy. If the athletes perform, it might just happen. But if they don’t, Cameron may be reminded that the race for political office is a marathon, not a sprint.
Even Boris Johnson got stuck in, or perhaps stuck on a zip wire is more appropriate.