Noel Ferguson writes from the Olympic Village: As the able-bodied version of the London Olympics closes will someone kindly tell me why so many royals turned up and who paid for their seats?
With the very honourable exception of the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, who does an amazing amount of behind the scenes work for British sport and especially youth sport, why did we see royals at almost every event: the Cambridges, Prince Harry and the verging on the grotesque daughters of the Duke of York, Eugenie and Beatrice. (By the by, those two are getting a reputation as unenviable as their father’s for being serial freeloaders and like their mother as well who, blow me down, also turned up this weekend).
Presumably, they were all hanging around outside when the word spread that not all the seats had sold and were getting in free while soldiers were dragged back from Germany to do handbag searches. Not Princess Michael of Kent, of course, who being far more aristocratic than any of the British royals left the dressage event at Greenwich on Tuesday to search for her kitten Ruby. Obviously aristos have a sense of priority. We need not fret. The little darling (Ruby that is) was found trapped behind a Kensington Palace panel.
The first time I spotted them I thought that it was really nice that they’d turned up to cheer on their countrymen and women. Good patronising stuff so necessary when you’re being trained to give girly waves from state coaches at adoring subjects along The Mall. But then, at another event, there they were again, then again, then again. Smiling, waving, cheering, clapping and hugging – were the regal menage à trois: William, Catherine (so much prettier when she was tabloid Kate) and Harry who by the way, gives every appearance of having a special relationship with his brother’s wife.
The Palace sniffs that of course they’re there. They are official Team GB Olympic and Paralympics ambassadors. Whatever happened to the official mascot – the bizarre one-eyed whatever it is called Wenlock?
So it would appear that officially, the London 2012 Games have to have ambassadors. Presumably that means no one outside the 20,000 accredited global media team, the individual nation states and every souvenir salesman in the world knows the games are going on. That would explain NASA’s $2.5 billion extravaganza. The real purpose of the Curiosity robot on Mars is to tell the world that the reason the planet seems deserted is that everyone’s gone, not to the Moon, but to East London.
I suppose I’m blowing my chances of a quick kneel and dubbing at the palace, but I really want to know why these royal civil list hangers-on think they should be there? Do they have to be seen? Do they see this as a good example to show off their ordinariness? Do they feel that if they did not go then apart from having almost nothing to talk about until Kate gets pregnant they would be asked why they had not gone?
Of course they’re on a hiding to nothing. Undoubtedly, the royals are popular. In fact, according to recent polls, they have rarely been so popular – the Jubilee Factor has worked.
The Olympics will add to this. London 2012 Games have been something akin to the monarch’s highland games. The trio plus whoever has nothing on the diary on the day have whizzed down from Kensington Palace (having spent the morning looking for Princess Michael’s cat), been escorted to the safe seats and cheered their hearts out.
Not surprisingly, the most popular royals are the Cambridges or rather she is, in spite of her daily workout turning her into a scragginess normally only seen in Ethiopian marathon runners. Insiders (whoever they are) claim that Prince Charles is miffed that his son and daughter-in-law get so much royal publicity whereas he and his future queen get almost no coverage. They would of course if they could do a MexWave and Charles could have his tailor knock up a double breasted polo shirt.
Still, given that the games are to the British (according to viewing figures and newspaper coverage) far more than the Olympics, the occasion has turned out to be a 19 day festival of 26 world championships – in some sports never before known to the very unsporting British. So the proper observation (and the one that may get me back on the knighthood list) is perhaps they can claim some success for Team GB. Mind you, can I really see Hoy pedalling twice as fast knowing that the trio are Mexican waving in the stand seats? And on a cautious note: if she was thinking about the royals, best not ask young Jade Jones what inspired her to kick seven shades of wotsit out of Yuzhuo Hoe in the taekwondo.
The final note of cynicism? They seem to be enjoying themselves so much. Could it be they really are like the rest of us? Professional cynics have thought it smart to knock London 2012. One said to me that he saw absolutely no level of culture in it. The vast majority of British are all Essex at heart – including the royals of course which is why, I suppose, they (minus Beatrice and Eugenie) should have been there every day.