The I.O.C., in short, specializes in the sort of workaday level of corruption that attends daily life in a strongman kleptocracy in Africa or South America—but on a much more lavish Old World scale. The difference is that the developing world’s tinpot dictators haven’t managed to leverage their marketing clout into flattering global media coverage. When NBC lavishes the Olympics with a $4.38 billion contract—and when the network’s corporate parent, GE, has forked over a multimillion-dollar sponsorship fee for the games—detailed investigations of bribery charges and judging scandals don’t exactly abound. And when more stubborn journalists, such as the Scottish investigative reporter Andrew Jennings, are able to stir up some real trouble, the I.O.C. hits them with criminal lawsuits in its home jurisdiction of Switzerland.
Still, one can easily understand why economic forces well beyond East London are embracing the current festivities in a half-prayerful mien: The other great models of international market comity are shuddering and heaving in the wings. Just a few miles from the where the Industrial Revolution was being re-enacted on Friday night, the British Parliament has been investigating the rampant bank fraud committed in the LIBOR scandal, which reduced the very basis of the global credit economy into a fiction. Shortly after the Games wind down, the flailing Euro Zone faces fresh reckonings in the German courts and the Dutch polls while weighing more bailouts for the still wheezing Spanish and Italian economies.
In short, the only path forward for the great neoliberal sachems of our global market could well be the model pioneered by the I.O.C.: gauzy, soft-focus tales of heroic individual achievement for the masses, and coercive results-rigging and generous payoffs for the privileged few behind the scenes. After all, as the slickly produced montage celebrating the ineffable virtues of the Scepter’d Isle announced at the outset of Friday’s ceremony, Britain is a land “where fairy tales never end.”