I wonder how the 2012 Olympics will look, when re-imagined by a BBC docu-drama 64 years hence. If it’s anything like next week’s charming but not exactly unclichéd account of the 1948 Men’s Double Scull — Bert & Dickie (BBC1, Wednesday 25 July) — something like this, I expect, with all sorts of imaginary obstacles thrown in the way to make our hero’s struggle more movie-friendly.
Int. London Olympic Velodrome. 2012 Men’s Keirin final. An elderly man in brightly coloured skintight gear shuffles with the help of a Zimmer frame towards his shiny, high-tech bicycle.
Jaunty Cockney: Bleedin’ ’eck. That old geezer looks like he’d be more comfortable on a penny farving.
Cockney’s mate: You may larf. But that’s Sir Chris Hoy, the man who will restore Britain’s self-respect in these grim days of economic decline and political turmoil.
Int. 10 Downing Street. Six weeks earlier. The Prime Minister is in his Bullingdon outfit, toying with his Flashman whip. Somewhere in the distance an angry mob can be heard, baying.
David Cameron: They hate me, Coe.
Lord Coe: Not as much as they hate me, Dave.
David Cameron: I’ll wager you a beefsteak dinner at White’s they hate me more. I’ve let them down on Europe, on the deficit reduction, on the destruction of the regiments, on shale gas, on wind farms...
Lord Coe: Ah, but wait till those Zil lanes become operational. Specially the ones painted next to bus lanes, which effectively make it impossible to drive through London without getting a fine.
David Cameron: Couldn’t we spin it as a cunning revenue-raising scheme to bring down the deficit?
Lord Coe: Dave, they don’t believe a word you say any more. Only a miracle can save us now...
Ext. Beer garden at the Lamb & Flag. A typical English pub. A group of typical British people are smoking cigarettes and eating foie gras by an outdoor heater [Production note: amazingly all were still legal in 2012!!!] in the pouring rain.
Typical bloke: Christ, this is miserable. The whole country’s going to the dogs. There’s only one thing that would make it all better.
Typical bloke 2: Winning the Euromillions?
Typical bloke (a glint in his eye): I’m thinking something better than that.
Typical bloke 2: You don’t mean...?
Int. Sitting room. An inner-city home. A family of Somali refugees are watching The X Factor.
Kid: Hey Dad, innit? As you got us tickets yet to see the 100 metres final? Usain Bolt is wicked, man, bruv, innit?
Dad: Haha. No, son. I have sold one of my kidneys to buy us something much better than that. Ringside seats at...the Velodrome!
Kid: WTF, innit?
Dad: Cycling, son. The sport of kings.
Kid: The sport of batty boys. Usain Bolt — him not a batty boy. Him —
Dad: Wash your mouth out with soap. Track and field events are for Third World countries. We’re British now, don’t forget. We excel at the sports that matter: the obscure ones where you need really expensive pieces of kit that shitholes like Somalia can’t afford. Like Finn class sailing boats. And shiny bikes like Sir Chris Hoy’s.
Kid. Hoy better win. Cos if he don’t, there is going to be riots, man.
Int. A skanky pub. An elderly man — 35 but he looks much older — tries to ease himself from the snug in order to purchase another pint.
Barman: You stay where you are, Sir Chris. You’ve more than done your bit for your country.
Sir Chris Hoy: Yes. I suppose I did. In the land of our future wise, enlightened overlords, at the Beijing Olympics.
Barman: How many golds did you win again?
Sir Chris Hoy: Three.
Barman: If only there were someone of your calibre taking part in this year’s Keirin. If we could win the Keirin, everything would be all right.
Ext. A gutter not far from the skanky pub. P.O.V. Chris Hoy, who is lying in it, facing upwards. A face shimmers above him. As Hoy regains his focus, we realise it is Lord Coe.
Coe: Chris! We need you.
Hoy: Says who?
David Cameron: Says your Prime Minister!
Lengthy montage of Sir Chris Hoy training for the Olympics with just five weeks to recover his fitness. We see him waking up, reaching for his fags — only to have his new trainer Lord Coe wag his finger disapprovingly. We see him getting on to his bike, repeatedly falling off having forgotten how to balance. We see his race times tumbling from 3 hours, to 2 hours 59 minutes, to 2 hours 57. Lord Coe shakes his head in a ‘we’ll never do this in time’ way.
Int. Olympic Velodrome. Kerein final. Close-up on Sir Chris Hoy, shuffling towards his shiny bike. Then cutaway shot to reveal — horror! — his shiny bike has been stolen. Crowd goes silent. This is the end of everything. Then a voice from the crowd calls out.
Jaunty Cockney: Oi, mate. This any help? It was my great-great-great-grandad’s.
The Cockney is holding a penny farthing.
The race is filmed in slow motion. After many exciting, hair-breadth moments designed to make you think the result is less of a foregone conclusion than it is, Hoy wins. Britain is saved. Hurrah.