Saturday, July 28, 2012

The good things about the Olympic opening ceremony

I don't plan to genuflect towards the London imperial altar too often over the next couple of weeks, but I do think there were three genuinely refreshing and praiseworthy aspects to the Olympic opening ceremony -

1) The in-your-face dedication of an entire section to the NHS. That was a bold and unambiguously political statement, and while the four National Health Services of the UK may have overwhelming public support, I'm sure there were still a number of Thatcherites foaming at the mouth. I can't even begin to imagine what our 'libertarian' chums in the US made of it.

2) Shami Chakrabarti being given her moment in the sun as one of the eight bearers of the Olympic flag. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw her - she may have some friends in the Conservative Party, but she remains a true radical, and was thus a fairly astonishing choice for such a role.

3) The choice of non-celebrities to light the Olympic flame, making the moment more important than the person.

* * *

Having made the claim in my previous post that this is not the first Olympics to be partly held in Scotland, I thought I'd better check if I was right. At first I was beginning to wonder, because the Wikipedia article on the 1908 Games only lists Southampton and the Solent as venues for the sailing events. However, the Official Report tells a different story...



The series of matches for the selected 12-metre cutters under the direction
of the Olympic Committee of the Yacht Racing Association began from Hunter’s
Quay on Tuesday, August 11. The yachts engaged were Mr. Chas. MacIver’s
Mouchette, designed by Mr. Alfred Mylne, and Mr. T. C. Glen-Coats’s Hera, designed by the owner. The wind was from west-north-west, tending more northerly,
of moderate force, puffy at times, but steady for the most part, and there was no
more than a pleasant curl on the water. Each boat had an amateur crew of
ten, and the owner steered in each case. The matches were conducted by the
Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club, Commodore Robert Wylie’s steam yacht Verve was
flagship, and a committee consisting of Messrs. W. W. Aspin, secretary, Wm.
York, secretary of Royal Clyde, W. F. King, F. W. Robertson, W. R. Copland,
and J. A. Gardiner were in charge of the details, and Mr. C. Newton-Robinson
represented the Y.R.A.

The start was fixed for half-past eleven, and both cutters appeared then
under all lower canvas, jackyarders, and jibtopsails for a free reach to Inverkip.
Thence it was a beat to Dunoon, an easy reach to Kilcreggan, and a close-haul
home, twice round, twenty-six miles."


  1. The chimney stacks were impressive (great design and clever), the cycling ‘angels’ (or whatever they were) were good, although their novelty soon wore off, the parachuting queen was funny (unfortunately, she didn’t land on the flame), and the bit at the end with the Olympic flame was stunning.

    Other than that, I suspect that many people in other nations across the world were just as bemused as we Scots were at this window into how England sees itself. Much of it was about as engaging as an extended version of the Eurovision Song Contest.

    I understand that many Tories in England were upset with the ceremony, describing it as an advert for the Labour party. But this was New Labour ersatz England. Where was the real England? The slave traders, the oppressive imperialists, the war-mongers, the market fundamentalists, the privatisers, the corporate crooks, the spivs and the speculators?

  2. Oh, I also meant to say that this was the first Olympic opening ceremony that I can remember where it was a relief to see the athletes.

  3. The announcers mentioned that it was the UK NHS. Outright unionist lies about our glorious shared heritage broadcast to 1/4 of the World and you're praising them for it?

    Apart from the forging of the One Ring it was too long, too PC and far far too much one person's in jokes with cameos by his friends. Like a later years Simpsons episode. But without the Lisa BJ logo obviously.
    I watched it on the commentary free option to avoid being driven totally insane.
    And anything which uses that adulterer Beckham as a Star should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.

  4. Just listened to the North British BBC commentator, Jill Douglas, interviewing England’s great (failed) cycling hope, Mark Cavendish after today’s race. She said to him, “Well Mark, that was tough, it seemed at times that the whole world was against Great Britain”. His reply to her was, “Yeh, it seems they don’t want to win themselves, they’re just happy if we don’t win it”.

    Phew, that’s a relief. I thought it was just us that hated them, but no, the rest of the world hates them as well.

  5. The irony is of course that Cavendish is Manx. He isn't even from the United Kingdom, let alone 'Great Britain'.