Cheerleader Coe outlines 2012 vision
It was Olympic Day on Tuesday.
What do you mean you missed it? It's a "unique, global event held every year" to commemorate the first time the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met for champagne and cigars. And it's "the most celebrated Olympic event after the Games".
It is also exactly the kind of self-reverential mythologizing the rest of the sporting universe finds so irritating about the Olympics. Does the IOC really need a next "most celebrated Olympic event"?
No, of course it doesn't. The Games are big enough to speak for themselves, which is why I went along to Waltham Forest Town Hall a couple of weeks ago to hear how London 2012's architects are selling the project to cynical Londoners. If it's possible to have a fascinating meeting on council premises this was it.
The headline acts were London 2012 organising committee (Locog) chairman Sebastian Coe and London Mayor Boris Johnson, but they were supported by a starry cast that included Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) chairman John Armitt, Paralympic legend Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and 850 local residents.
The Q&A format seemed simple but was delicious in potential for embarrassment. The likes of Armitt and Coe are Federer-like when it comes to returning grenades from us hacks but I wondered how they would deal with curveballs from the public.
I also wanted to know what the humble tax-payer was most concerned about. Would it be the same list of grumbles that the professional moaners read from or would punters tap a new vein of negativity?
The answers to these questions - and many more - were illuminating and, by and large, heartening.
Cards on table time, I'm what Johnson would call an "Olympic maniac" (he admitted to becoming one himself) but I'm only too aware that many of you are less enamoured with London 2012 than me and some of you are downright hostile to the idea.
This upsets me and I can't help thinking far more people would see things my way if they stopped worrying about the price of the Games and started thinking about their value for money. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The mayor was the first to speak in Walthamstow and he did what he does best: a mildly amusing two-minute riff on why x is good/bad for London. In this case x was the Olympics and they are going to be great.
He likened the Games' potential for positive change to a "runaway horse that we must lasso", said London's Olympic Park would be the biggest urban park built in Europe for 150 years apart from an inferior one in "Dusseldorf or some such place", and managed to use the word "riparian" in context. Like I said, vintage Boris.
He also said bidding for the Games was "absolutely the right thing to do" and he would the same thing "twice over".
Armitt followed the mayor, which was a hard on a man who would make Gordon Brown sound like Peter Kay, but 2012's foreman also did what he does best: dryly delivered good sense, which is, I suppose, what Gordon is aiming at too.
He left the grand claims to Boris but chipped in with solid supporting arguments about how 75p of every £1 spent on the site is going on "physical legacy" - bricks, mortar and riparian parks to you and me.
Tanni was next up and spoke eloquently about sport's ability to inspire, while Baroness Ford, the boss of the new Olympic Park Legacy Company, used her first public speech on the Olympics to assure everybody that unlike previous hosts we won't be leaving behind anything unloved and unused.
Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe was the fifth speaker and he spoke on behalf of the Olympic boroughs (Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest) and their tax-payers. It was an interesting turn as he likened his role to being the annoying kid in class always asking teacher "why?"
Be it burying power lines, putting in sewerage for the thousands of homes that will be built in the Olympic Park or anything else to do with the construction of what is, in effect, a new mini London borough, Pipe is our man.
Worthy stuff addressed it was now time for Coe to give his 10,000th explanation of why hosting an Olympic Games is a pleasure not a chore. Practice clearly makes perfect as the double Olympic champion is by far the best advocate the London 2012 team possess. He might also be the most coherent spokesman for sport in general in this country.
Coe started his pitch by reminding the audience of his strong connections with the area through his time as captain of Haringey Athletic Club, whose colours he wore with distinction throughout his incredible career on the track.
During his 1980s pomp, 40% of his Haringey team-mates lived on the Broadwater Farm Estate, then a byword for crime and deprivation. The well-spoken, future Conservative MP fitted in just fine, though. Haringey Athletic Club was a "key anchor point" for that troubled community.
These early experiences of sport's ability to refresh the parts other activities cannot reach made a profound impression on Coe. He now describes sport as Britain's "most extraordinary hidden social worker" and for him that is why we pitched for the Games.
I agree with him. The regeneration of a part of London that had become a toxic dump, the long overdue construction of some decent sporting infrastructure in the capital and the opportunity to showcase our country on the global stage are all well and good. But the real benefit of London 2012 is that sport will be driven higher up the agenda in this country, and that is a benefit for everybody, not just Londoners.
Because Coe is right. Sport can do things no other policy tool has proved capable of achieving.
A positive alternative to gang culture for disaffected teenagers? Check. An effective answer to obesity and other public health concerns? Yep. A recession-resistant industry that entertains and inspires millions? Absolutely.
This is the message the Olympic project's supporters should be repeating up and down the country (starting with the London 2012 Open Weekend that Coe announced for 24-26 July) because this is the stuff you cannot put a price on - £9.3bn to change Britain's attitude towards sport sounds like a bargain to me.
A lot of the questions from the floor in Walthamstow were about parochial issues, mainly to do with the area's patchy transport links, but by far the biggest cheers came when the focus shifted to sport.
That is why I am willing to forgive the IOC for its Olympic Days, pretentious rhetoric and shadowy politicking because it also puts on the most inspirational event on the global calendar. And we're hosting the next one, so let's not squander it.