Monday, 30 July 2012

Lighting up our territory - thanks Danny Boyle!

The opening ceremony of the Olympics has rightly snatched patriotism away from those who've never understood what it truly involves.

The little-Englanders, the Tory pipsqueak tendency (note: not all Tories), the feeble-minded royalists, the culturally insecure, the racists and the fascists who were never really going to understand Danny Boyle's masterpiece.

And make no mistake, this was a masterpiece - a great work of art, passion and humour. It lit up a stadium in celebration of our territory, our history, our people.

The ceremony will be talked about for a long time to come. Its legacy is already working to unite the people of our country; and already changing, for the better, the view of us held by people across the globe.

And, paradoxically, the ceremony was all the more precious for the fact that it was organised to celebrate something as overblown, corrupt and stupid as the Olympics movement.

Now, there were a few elements of the opening bash that I didn't like much. Seb Coe's ridiculous speech (more about that later); international liberal bores from Central Casting carrying the Olympic flag (honorable exceptions being Muhammad Ali and Doreen Lawrence); the pompous swearing of oaths; the announcements in French; and the anti-doping cant.

But I don't wish to carp. I intend to be positive about something that was a glorious triumph.

So, let's consider that opening ceremony...

It was visually stunning - the rising of those massive industrial chimneys, the cycling doves, the forging of the Olympic rings, the lighting of the cauldron, the fireworks, the beauty of London itself, the giant Voldemort and Marry Poppinses ...

It was aurally exciting. The Jam's 'Going Underground' really got me going, and what a glorious showcase of British pop followed. Hey Jude? Well I don't like it much, but it is great emotional glue for the British, especially when sung by Macca (even though, sadly, his voice is weakened now).

It was deeply spiritual. As someone who has sung along to Abide with Me at Wembley at several Challenge Cup finals, I valued its prominent inclusion at the Olympics. It's a Christian song, of course, and so very suitable for an event which celebrated and narrated Britain's remarkable story - given the enormous role Christianity has played in building culture and morality across our land. Well, where do you think that morality came from? It didn't float down the rivers on punnets of strawberries!

It was multicultural. Hooray! It's about time we got everybody in the mix. What's so hard to understand? What matters is NOT the colour of a person's skin or their faith or their cultural differences; what matters, what bestows dignity, is the simple fact of being HUMAN. All humans are intrinsically worthy of respect and dignity - which is why racism is so vile and / or stupid.

It was patriotic. Yes, Danny Boyle proved he understands what patriotism is about. It's about the people and what is dear to their hearts - like the NHS, music, the countryside etc. No doubt Danny was having a dig at the Government with the NHS tableau, but David Cameron and Boris Johnson are both intelligent guys. They are not going to let that bother them.They recognise Boyle's northern English genius.

But enough of the glorious opening ceremony. What about the games themselves? Oh dear God! This is where I strongly disagree with the synthetic and bland cheering that goes on relentlessly (particularly on the BBC) as people strive to run faster, jump higher and do things stronger than others.

It is not good for a person to obsess about sport and push themselves to physical extremes. It is not a good way to build a proper, rounded human personality. This problem is getting worse. Sports training techniques are becoming ever more extreme and, frankly, weird.

The whole industry of sports training and sports development is wrong. It is psychologically damaging for many. There is no point being a brilliant athlete on the park if, as soon as you open your mouth to speak, you demonstrate that you are staggeringly thick.

And you're thick because you've allowed winning at physical feats to dominate your life and to distort your formation as a human being.

The important things in life are not, in the main, anything to do with winning. Deep down, most people realise this. The important stuff has to do with losing, mainly. We learn a lot from losing. It makes us grow in wisdom.

And the life-affirming aspects of living are much more closely connected to art, poetry, heroism, philosophy, love, science, creating things, healing and caring etc (as the opening ceremony rightly showed) than they are to sport.

And when, in his opening speech at the ceremony, Seb Coe said "in every Olympic sport there is all that matters in life" my heart sank. If he believes that, he is stupid, but I don't think he is stupid. Maybe he's misguided. Or maybe too easily influenced by all the politicking, PR bull***t and capitalist sponsorship that the Olympic movement is all about these days.

Yes! Yes! The Olympics are mainly about politicking by the fat cats of the 'Olympic family' (quick, pass the sick bag!), dreary public relations twaddle, corruption (a huge record of corruption) and doping abuse (another very big problem).

But, as I've intimated, one brilliant thing has come out of these London Olympics - the opening ceremony that might yet change the world. Thank you, Danny Boyle.

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