July 23, 2012
I'd rather watch it on TV.
That would be my response to a number of things, but – for sure – it's my attitude toward the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London.
They're expecting 1 million people from around the world to converge on the United Kingdom to be part of the three-week extravaganza. Already a crowded part of the world – with all of the infrastructure challenges that go with that distinction – but, from July 27 to August 12, the staid British demeanor will be put to the ultimate test: what do you do when an “extra” million people, from dozens of countries, come expecting world-class hospitality?
The dimensions of demand have already produced some handwringing, in unusual categories. One of them is foundational: they may run out of cash.
Not money; they've got high expectations of profitability from hosting the event. Government and businesses have been working for years to devise ways to monetize what will happen as the unpaid athletes produce the real show. Huge capital outlays have once again surrounded the playing fields, offering the possibility of lasting benefits to the hosts.
No, the cash they're worrying about is made out of paper, and it has pictures of HRH Queen Elizabeth to distinguish it from other world currencies. The item is Pounds Sterling, and they're not sure they'll have enough.
A test run happened a few months ago, when London threw a party to recognize the Queen's 60 years of reign. During that four-day weekend, ATMs across London were overworked with commoners coming to the capital to pay their respects to their monarch. The machines were strained; the wells ran dry: they ran out of money.
International newspapers are warning of a repeat: what if tourists are ready to spend money, but cannot get any? They don't take American dollars; Euros will raise a stink and leave you stranded. The only exchange they'll recognize is pounds and pence.
Compounding the problem: nothing in London is cheap. A movie ticket runs US$ 22; go into a pub for a half-pint and a burger, and expect to pay US$15.60. What's the solution?
British officials have a suggestion: convert your cash before you board the plane. Leave your native nickels at home, and come up with the English treasure to pack with your passport. If you plan for the fact that you won't be in Kansas when you hit Heathrow, you'll do fine. Wait to work it out, until you get there? Look for a bus bench, and make a cardboard sign to go with your appeal…
It reminds me of the advice from another King, giving counsel to people who plan to travel from their home countries to his Kingdom, where they don't take dollars or deutschmarks, but do have "cash" in pocket or purse! Here's what he suggests: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)
Linger over those lines: you'll arrive with tickets to the event (“…your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom…”), but what you do before you get there will determine whether you have any spending money once you're there.
What a place: if you plan ahead – and send your capital via your Kingdom philanthropy, here – you'll end up having it in full measure, upon arrival… and you'll never run out, and you'll never get hit by pickpockets or swindlers who want to take advantage of the unsuspecting.
I'll watch the Olympics on TV… but, I'm going to the Main Event, in person. I already have tickets… and I'm sending money ahead, so I'll have it when I want it. What's your plan?