Olympic opening: the other bits, Seb Coe's speech etc
I've already said in various places what a convert I was to Danny Boyle's Olympic opening spectacular -- I started off as a curmudgeonly refusenik and ended up a Boyle-style patriot. Boyle has a better ear for the passions of the nation than most politicians, and he got it right enough (not wholly, but enough) for me to feel proud. To hear the Sex Pistols played in front of the Queen, that was it... I remember how they were once banned for heaven's sake. Now the world was listening, and I loved it.
So, richly deserved plaudits for Boyle, but what about the rest of the three and a half opening ceremony? We seem to be drawing a veil over that.
First the parade of athletes. OK I know this has to happen (otherwise we might just as well have no more than Danny Boyle and forget about what the Games are really about). But, heavens, two hours of 204 nations in the world didn't make for hugely exciting viewing. And although the BBC commentating team did a hell of a lot better than in the Jubilee pageant, the Wiki style factoid, carefully up-beat stuff they came out with about the third world countries rather undercut the real version of un-pc inclusivity that Boyle had tried to host (next time get Boyle to write their fact sheets).
Try these snippets.
Rwanda..? 'Trying to get on the map' (according to its flag bearer, they said) "as a country of skilled cyclists". (It was only the next morning that the news came that British and other aid was being cut because of something other tham skilled cycling.. but who knows?)
Somalia.. ? "Finally on the road to recovery after renewed international efforts to defeat the piracy problems." Patronising..?
Tunisia..? "Probably the most successful transition so far from the Arab Spring that we were talking about earlier"....Err??
But OK (plus a few jokes about languages with the longest alphabets and country names with only one vowel that were sprinkled into the commentary) so far, so necessary.
It was the speeches etc that got up my nose. Not just the oaths of the athletes and officials (these do have an ancient precedent. and were no doubt just as soon broken then as now... no doping, eh? We've already seen that one disappear, like written in water). But it was more the Rogge and Coe presentations.
To be fair to Seb Coe, I'm sure he's done a good job getting these Games off the ground, and deserves more praise than I am about to give him. But did anyone actually listen to what he said at the opening ceremony -- the "sport is all" line?
"I have never been so proud to be British..." .. well I had just been beginning to feel a bit proud of the old country after the Boyle exravaganza, but now -- with this kind of explicitation -- I was back-tracking a bit.
And it went on "There is a truth to sport .. a purity , a drama, an intensity.. For every Briton, just as for the competitors, this is our time...".
Well, hang on.. it's only a load of sport, which -- sorry sunshine -- does not encapsulate the whole of human existence and talent.
And try this: "In every Olympic sport there is all that matters in life." Come again... It's worthy and fun and probably good for us. But no more.
It really doesnt include all that matters in life. Anyone who believes that is bonkers.
It's great to have fun with these Games, to have a good time, and to praise all those who do well. But where was the mention of all the other things that matters in the world.. art, literature, etc etc . No reference in these eulogies of "quicker and stronger" and sporting fair play, to the cultural Olympiad, or all the otehr things that might .. yes .. actually be MORE important and longer lasting that running a bit faster . (We dont flock to Florence in our millions to remember the Renaissance skill at the 100 metres...)
The Olympics are not a bad idea in itself, and I was just about getting a bit keen on them. But let's not get carried away.. the future isn't written in sport, doping or no doping.