Twenty six million people in the UK watched the olympic opening ceremony last friday and I was one of them,although admittedly I missed the beginning.I missed the beginning because I couldn’t stomach anything else to do with the Olympics and had decided to go running instead.I run 4/5 times a week through Rendlesham forest in Suffolk,a beautiful 5k route of escapism.No noise,no people (generally) and no distraction.I catch up on podcasts,listen to music or just run listening to nothing except an old man’s laboured breathing.I run at a relatively good pace so all in all I’m only away door to door in an hour.
I was hoping the opening ceremony would be over/nearly over or at least ploughing on through by the time I got back.
My disdain for the olympics was mainly because of Seb Coe (I didn’t make him a lord-always rooted for Ovett anyway) ,MacDonald’s,Coke,Jeremy Hunt,Boris Johnson,G4s,David Cameron,Theresa May,the IOC,Atos,Visa,Dow Chemicals,Samsung,BT,BMW,Adidas,Cadbury & cisco.Olympics being provided and governed over and dictated to by a huge list of self-interest protecting pedants,politicians and corporations.I couldn’t bear it.The farce of ticket allocation and then tickets being given to corporate “partners”,not really sure when we stopped referring to sponsors as sponsors and renamed them partners,which implies there is a change in corporate relationships like a teenager updated Facebook status.You can’t help but feel the manipulative hand of shiny corporate PR on your throat at times.
We are being told that financially the world (particularly Europe) is holidaying up shit creek paddle-less and although banks or certainly financial institutions are to blame,measures of fiscal austerity are being felt by people,surprisingly not connected with the banking sector.A situation that has caused less of a warm glow to spread across the faces of nearly all concerned.The European community is struggling with basic arithmetic as it would seem so is the British Chancellor.A usually beloved character of upper class tom foolery,that in no way panders to personification of perceived stereotypes:privileged,monied,upper-class,own nest feathering,nepotistic bullington Etonian gobshites that are so despised by the ever-growing band of have nots.No,our present incarnation is a youthful political foetus (under 40) that although has reneged on most of his budget proposals is holding steadfastly to the now legendary conservative Plan “A”.
A plan that although hard to pin down,seems to involve making the disable jump through hoops to prove authenticity and killing off the elderly and infirm with state sponsored neglect and apathy.Making the NHS’s problems seem systemic to a history of raging lefty financial incompetence and by making it appear not only broken but unrepairable in its current guise.It’ll be much easier to sell it all off to the dreaded ‘private sector’.-(cue star wars Darth Vader music.)
Other master strokes of this plan were making it an absolute certainty that education becomes a privilege afforded the few and not EVERYONE .Allowing parents/independent lead free schools to take large sums of money from the education budget and yet not offer accessibility to everyone.Pretty clever really,if the free school ideas hadn’t of appealed so vigorously to the underfunded middle classes then I would imagine plan “B” (not the singer) would have been to put asbestos back in the schools of the poor and let nature takes its course.When the private schools have scooped up all the Tarquin and the Montgomery’s,the free schools have scooped up the best state employed teachers and the most academically parent pushed middle classed children,who’s left? who will be faced with state-run comprehensive of diminishing funds and resources? This coupled with the education ministers proposal to two tier the secondary education qualifications back into O levels for the clever ones and pat on the head and an apple for the thickies.Which almost guaranties the numbers of underprivileged children progressing through the education system will fall.Admittedly not all of these fall under the remit of Herr Osborne,but he’s the purse string holder and this black period in British history started with us being told it was not ideological but a response to a financial crisis.So fuck him,he can be the poster child for why this is seriously knackered.Now before I go all misty at the minutia of the mein kampf tory manifesto,(we seem a million miles away from the electioneering tieless,jacket-less smarmy monkey that was the new caring face of modern conservatism David Ca-moron.) I should try harder to stay on message and not allow myself to digress.
Osborne.Chancellor.Tory monetary policy for growth.olympics…right
So this policy,of such dastardly genius that it would have made Eva Braun moist,seems to be centred around demonizing and vilifying the public sector at every opportunity.Trying to convince the average electorate that the welfare system is corrupt to its core and doesn’t require reform but annihilation,that the very British values of fairness and compassion are being plundered by an undeserving poor,intent on getting everything for nothing at the cost of hard-working middle class families;who through their taxes are keeping the council estates in crack and the generational unemployed and their 14 year old pregnant daughter with a roof over their heads whilst they breed pit bulls and binge drink.Constantly pitching the public sector as the private sector’s great nemesis and treating trade unions with the kind of disdain and political disregard that usually precedes an overt attack on the very employment failsafes that are a prerequisite to a fair and just society.
The cutting of services and jobs within the public sector screams ideological opportunism and not the ‘as advertised’ long view financial competence.The ground work is being laid to privatize vital,key sectors within the public domain:police,NHS etc and ensuring that contracts are given to nepotistic parliamentary connections is staggeringly,Orwellian-ly unbelievable.
So the Tories are sending out a message;a message that protects the wealth status quo and puts very real limits on the accessibility of everyone else’s social mobility.They seem to count on the assumption that everyone has aspirations beyond their current circumstances,aspirations that through financial or opportunistic merit will remain unfulfilled ,that the need to climb,progress and achieve will outweigh the need for fairness,humility,compassion and community.
The thing to remember is that they are only speaking to their own party faithful and are not being heard by the whole electorate;this was never more apparent than when Danny Boyle’s £27 million olympic opening ceremony simultaneously managed to upset Tories whilst celebrating both Britain’s identity and values.
For my money,the Olympic ideal was being sold as a marketing corporate tagline,Macdonald’s aversion to nutritionally and ethically sourced foods and Coke’s recipe of corn syrup and childhood obesity were the main sponsors of an event that was supposed to inspire a generation to excel athletically.At best this is a direct contradiction,at worst this is corporate manipulation,chasing the bottom-line through aggressive marketing and social inclusion,all with government and legislative backing.I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth,the taste of yet another deluge of corporate interests being adhered to,the taste of everything repeatedly being reduced to the worship and acquisition of corporate money and the taste of a predominantly right-wing coalition spunk thousands of pounds into unnecessary olympic paraphernalia.Selling the olympics to us as the economic great white hope in the face of sustained and savage public sector cuts,whilst allowing corporate interests to dictate and manipulate whole industries and prices,took me to the threshold of what I could listen to.
The whole idea of the olympics is to celebrate and reward or acknowledge the pursuit of athleticism,to witness the end results of a sporting life dedicated to excellence and discipline.It is not to emulate a national torch procession first thought up by Hitler’s government to show german supremacy in the face of the 1936 olympics in Berlin.Or to allow sponsors/partners to give any kind of preference in who held the torch aloft….Coke organised Will.I.AM from the black-eyed peas to hold the torch in Taunton and Lloyds bank organised the ginger one from Harry Potter to hold it in Cambridge.Thank god napalm manufacturer Dow chemicals didn’t try to shoe horn in Kim Jong-un to make a photo-op in Bognor Regis…all in the name of supporting the cherished olympian ideals and not in any way making us feel as if we are sucking corporate cock.
Talking of corporate cock- G4s are a humongous large global security company entrusted and paid extremely handsomely for providing the security for the games.They seem to have fannied about unmonitored and unchecked by our private sector loving culture minister as it came as a real shock to parliament when the company admitted they couldn’t honour their obligation of the contracted number of guards.With a fortnight’s notice the military who were on standby (i.e waiting to be made redundant and filling out their days in the holiday resort of Hellman’s province in Afghanistan.)were called in to pick up the slack (run the security).Similar events transpired in Glasgow when Hampden park seemed too far north for G4s guards to travel and only a handful turned up,leaving the Strathclyde constabulary to pick up the private sectors slack.
Much political hilarity ensued,Tories back peddled and stressed they were all over it like flies on shit,whilst Labour struggled to point out the obvious shattering of the myth that the private sector was more efficient than a bloated and wasteful public sector.The libdems made sure everyone was comfortable and had tea.
Another problem for the Tories was averted when border and immigration staff called off their threatened strike action at the eleventh hour.Tourists were reportedly relieved (daily mail),Mrs Voldemort;Theresa May the home secretary claimed the unions had effectively folded and it was a win for human decency (the telegraph) and the unions claimed they had received an offer of more jobs and conditions-refuted by the Tory covenant (daily record.)Ministers condemned the timing of the proposed strikes as morally wrong,stating that they would cause major disruptions and prompt public anger.Clearly not fully understanding the point of striking-who would care if father christmas went on strike in June.
Labour ,the party founded on the principle of protecting and standing up for the working man/woman and indeed funded in part by union contributions,found themselves unable to assist,condone or support the workers as they still have a massive Blairite legacy to unshackle themselves from and a massive fear of losing the middle class vote.The middle classes are statistically the most likely demographic to actually slip a piece of paper in a ballot box,so their opinions need to be courted if any aspirations of power are to be nurtured.Especially after the massive effort Ed millipede has gone to,to ascend to the dizzying heights of opposition leader;stabbing his brother in the back,marrying his long-term girlfriend for aesthetic reasons,have his nasally squeaky voice de-squeaked and lets not forget,eating a Gregg’s pasty on camera.So he’s not about to throw all that hard work of social/political climbing out the window by being seen to be wholeheartedly supporting the very people who founding labour party principles relate to.fuck no…so in the face of union demonizing and Tory moralising (I’ll avoid the obvious irony) labour decided to screen all their calls and were unable to help.Millipede’s later comments were bland political rhetoric that were only aimed at making sure he still had a seat at the middle-class conran dinning table.
By Friday evening,I couldn’t have given less of fuck about the Olympics;an over blown sports day that was as much about corporate profiteering and political point scoring and implementing of ideologies as it was about alleged excellence and determination and discipline and dedication.
I went for my run.
The forest was beautiful,the ground beneath my feet soft due to British summer time rain and the air around me fresh and moist.It was a good run,steady pacing,no obvious twinges or cramps (I’m notoriously shite at warming up properly) I saw a couple of deer,a couple of muntjacs and some rabbits,thankfully no dogs,joggers or walkers.Just me and an iPod,listening to a little atoms podcast.I always finish on a sprint and then while I wait for the seemingly inevitable coronary I drink a pint of water and wonder why all this running isn’t making my arse any smaller.
I got home and my wife told me that the start of the opening ceremony had been brilliant and maybe I should watch it (instead of being a munty faced arsehole.) I sat down and had watched,maybe,fifteen minutes before it really struck home,that I could identify with all of it.Excluding rugby,I struggle with the whole patriotic nationalist celebration.I’m scottish and love my country but honestly,the further away from it I get the stronger my feelings of pride and belonging become.
Watching Danny Boyle’s extravaganza did an amazing thing;it defined a country through simple homages to history,it bent facts a little and still managed to culturally demonstrate the principles that the majority of britons relate to.It was comfortable and inspiring,it made you proud without hammering home the nationalistic angle with all the bullshit that that can bring.Secular held beliefs were reinforced with the marked absence of the church’s sticky fingers,instead we were treated to the delight of revisiting our youth and upbringings,allowing the audience to project its own sense of belonging upon the performance was the master stroke that made the ceremony brilliant.That and pissing off the political right by celebrating culture and british minutia from the eastenders theme tune to a lesbian kiss on brookside.
The music and famous faces were our bands,our songs,our faces.
Like Alice we were treated to an exaggerated mirror image,a snapshot of specific cultural points that without being exclusive or even comprehensive,it showed the prolific nature of our jukebox;like a british iPod on shuffle.It didn’t include everything,it couldn’t,but what it did do was give an overview that we could all hang our hats on.
On twitter there was a big british love in from UK tweeters and a little confusion from overseas watchers,on my timeline only one person,a South African gave vitriolic abuse towards the ceremony.Bless…I’ll ignore the spitting image sentiment (i have however known a few Sfi’s who are lovely so it was clearly personality not nationality.)
I felt like the ceremony spoke to me, to my history,to my identity,without being overly specific…very clever.Not a fucking logo or brand being rammed down my throat and most beautiful of all,it celebrated the very things that the Tories have either cut,annihilated or dismissed.It put money,corporations and austerity out of the minds of the audience and replaced them with history,hope and the Jam.Even the sight of Dizzee Rascal was unusually a welcome one.
For 3 hours,my cynicism was abated and my scepticism was diminished.Yea ok,by 1am I was probably at my limit of watching parading,track suited athletes but still,I was feeling good.Paul McCartney was the evenings only bum note, ‘Hey Jude’ murdered by the man who wrote it…it was really painful and I couldn’t give an arctic monkey that he was only paid a pound to appear.HE HAS ENOUGH MONEY AND LETS NOT FORGET THE DEAL MADE WITH ITUNES OVER THE BEATLES BACK CATALOGUE.
But even Macca couldn’t change how I felt,I turned the television off and went to bed happy.
The reality of political Britain can wait and on the plus side we have a 2 week-long fancy sport’s day to watch.