Dec 10

The London 2012 web-site (www.london2012.com ) proudly proclaims that athletes staying at the Olympic Village will have easy access to the travel and leisure facilities of the adjacent Stratford City complex, and the High Speed Javelin shuttle service will link the Village to central London in just seven minutes.

Just seven minutes away – a young person growing up in a structured society like China’s being so suddenly exposed to one of
the most permissive in the world.

The following are Hogarthian moral disasters that are all too conceivable given the reality of original sin and the frailty of our human nature:

A young Chinese athlete from a traditional home could catch a sexually-transmitted disease in one of the brothels or lap-dancing clubs or sleazy pick-up joints that have become so flagrantly in your face in London.

He or she could acquire a taste for cannabis, so readily available on the streets of London following its reclassification. That is not as inconceivable as it sounds. A young athlete with time on their hands after being knocked out of their event could fall prey to the temptation to try something as manifestly non-perfor mance-enhancing.

He or she could get drawn into a peer-group of native teenagers who take them out on a drinking binge.

He or she could incur a gambling debt at the one of the tawdry casinos that the last decade has spawned and get sucked into a web of corruption leading them to throw their event in a deal with a seedy book-maker.

He or she, heaven forbid, could get involved in a knife-fight outside a night-club.Just seven minutes away for a young person with a soul to destroy and time to be killed.

The Chinese authorities would be advised to appoint the equivalent of a 1950s-style hospital Matron to keep an eye on the girls and for the boys the equivalent of a National Service Sergeant-Major. Though liberals may jeer that this comes straight out of an Ealing Comedy conjuring up images of Hatty Jakes tweaking some poor chinagirl’s ear, actually this is simply common sense.

Proper supervision of young athletes in London should be strongly supported by the Christian community in China. There are now estimated to be 130 million Christians in China, more than the population of the United Kingdom. There is a good chance Christians will be represented in Team China. If one of them were to get involved in moral corruption whilst in London and that were to get into the newspapers, both the deed and its exposure would be terrible for them and for their fellow Chinese Christians.

It would make life far harder for the Christian community in China who would get tarred with the brush of Western decadence. In fact, damage to the Christian cause would be bad for the Chinese nation as a whole because the growth of Christianity is its only realistic hope of developing a political culture of freedom under the rule of law.

London churches are in a position to provide support and hospitality in Christ’s name for Chinese athletes staying in the Olympic Village in 2012 and God willing that will be welcomed by the Chinese authorities.

In the Caligula film-set that 21^st century London is increasingly becoming, they would be well-advised to take the moral support that is being offered.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk