Britain stays within a tradition begun by Adolf Hitler and cemented by the Beijing fascists.
Politicisation added to the shameless commercialisation of the Games
Twitter being overloaded at 20:30 BST, I gave up on avoiding the Olympics. As I had a very close female chum taking part in Danny Boyle’s opening extravaganza, it seemed an excellent idea to go Adrienne-spotting. A classic southern French storm was brewing, and looked as if it was timed perfectly to black out the Opening Ceremony on the Freesat-cum-Murdovision deal we have in our holiday home here. So all the portents were in place.
There is something about muddled British understatement that has always made me both proud and amused at the same time. Boyle having largely used volunteers for the Bolympics opener, it occurred to me that it must therefore be an unqualified success: had he used professionals, it would’ve been merely a qualified success. There are many etymological clues helping to explain our amateurish incompetence as a nation. We also say something is “perfectly dreadful”, which would sum up Dunkirk in 1940 a treat: a dreadful cockup perfectly saved in time for it to become the stuff of propaganda legend. Or put another way, another bunch of overpaid Sir Herberts in Whitehall saved yet again by the native entrepreneuralism of a seagoing Island race.
Well, the Ceremony wasn’t blacked out down here. But I wish it had been.
Let me begin by saying what was terrific about it. First, all the filmic bits: they played to Boyle’s strengths as a man who understands the coup of big ideas, and taking the piss out of ourselves. The Queen, James Bond, Rowan Atkinson and Chariots of Fire: they were all perfect targets, and brilliantly executed. Second, the pyrotechnics and the choreography: absolutely outstanding, and the right sort of spectacle for such an occasion.
But the rest of it was the most overtly politicised display of cliches and right-on bollocks in Olympic history. A few examples will suffice to underpin my point.
There were the toffs in tall top hats exploitin’ yer strugglin’ workers while putting up Satanic chimneys. (Why were some of them black? Not one of them would’ve been black in 1830.)
There were Suffragettes, earnestly carrying demo banners as they paved the way for a future in which women voters fell for Nick Clegg on the basis of one puerile televised political debate.
There was the NHS, shining bright in its perfection, but then suddenly under attack from J K Rowling nasties.
The Union Flag, firm as ever….despite the obvious fact of the United Kingdom falling apart under the hammer of Alex Salmond and mad bankers.
And of course, we couldn’t get away without Carnaby Street, Swingin’ London, multiculturalist music, and deaf kids singing the national anthem. It was challenged folk meet rap drivel in Kinks Who Kings Road extravaganza. It was rubbish.
Bits of it, in fact, were impenetrable rubbish. The French voice-over – WTF was that about? A tribute to Dan Hannan’s multilingual talents, perhaps? It is always a bad sign when BBC anchor-gobs like Huw Edwards have to explain what’s going on: “This is I K Brunel, this is a tribute to those killed in the London bombings, these are the Olympic rings forged by the Industrial Revolution”…and so on and so on. Show not tell, Danny – show not tell.
The mess wasn’t helped by braindead BBC commentaries…”Yes, it’s a history lesson…forging moments that will live with us forever…wonderful rendition…This is what it’s all about, young people from around the world traing for this big moment….Reminding us of the place where it all began, Greece…”. Did you see anything in it that made an even oblique reference to the original Greek Olympic ideal? Did you see a single thing in it referring to hurdles, throwing things and long jumps?
I wanted so much for this Opening Ceremony to do the business, and set Britain apart from other Olympics hosts. I am a huge fan of Danny Boyle’s movies, my mate was taking part, I felt that true British creativity could set a new direction more in keeping with what the Games used to represent. But it fell far short of even my most mediocre expectations.
Had Hitler had the technology in 1936, we would’ve seen Jewish financiers with false noses waving devalued currency around (‘Judischkonfetti’), massed regiments of Stürm Abteilung smashing shop windows, a gigantic Reichstag fire in centre stage, and a synchronised display of Nazi Mädschen being humped by black-uniformed SS officers. The inability of both the organisers and Doyle himself to make this deadly link depresses me. Even more depressing is that – I just know it – whole regiments of trolls and faux patriots will, when I post this piece, completely fail to grasp what on Earth I’m on about.
“Keep politics out of sport” was a cry of the Right during the 1960s: a mantra that I saw at the time as an excuse for appeasing unpleasant regimes. Half a century later, I am shouting this slogan at the top of my voice. Marx said, “In the end, everything is political”. The misguided designers and creators of this Olympics Opening Ceremony clearly agree with him.