My favourite way of boring people at the moment is to ask why oh why oh why oh why would a city like London, that is already becoming hideously narcissistic, want to waste huge amounts of time and money on a vast gymnastic vanity project in a swamp in East London. "It's easy for you to say", they reply "but think what the Olympics will do for the poor!" Yes, maybe the chafinches and squirrels of Hackney Marshes really do need the cash. But I came across this quote in George Bataille's wonderful The Accursed Share yesterday, which finally answers my question:
A conflict is not necessarily military; one can envisage a vast economic competition, which for the competitor with the initiative would cost sacrifices comparable to those of war, and which, from a budget of the same scale of war budgets, would involve expenditures that would not be compensated by any hope of capitalist profit.
From a Bataillian perspective, the fact that there is no economic logic to justify the Olympic games is precisely what justifies it. Or to be more specific with one of Bataille's distinctions, the fact that there is no 'classical' economic justification gives it a 'general' economic justification. Beneath our static economic categories, Bataille sees swarming and endless growth, which has to be periodically set free in the form of sacrifice, conspicuous consumption, wastefulness, sex and war. Economies need ways of releasing their excess.
The Olympics will lance the boil of London's increasingly uncontainable wealth, like children throwing jelly at a tea party. Quite smart when you think about it.