Friday, 27 November 2015

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Olympics must ditch the silly field events

I’m deeply unimpressed by the great unveiling of the Olympics opening ceremony. The world’s media and select dignitaries were present to see a scale model that looked like it had been made out of old washing up bottles, a Thomas The Tank Engine train set and bits of the Tellytubbies homeland.

It looked as though it has been prepared earlier by the Blue Peter team and knocked up in about 10 minutes. No whizzy video, no computer-generated images, no flashes and specially-commissioned loud music.

The big idea is to portray Britain as an idyllic countryside, a haven of rolling fields filled with free-range animals and simple, quiet folk playing cricket.

Think 1922, or 1912 – or even 1812 – certainly not 2012.

Artistic director Danny Boyle says the show will create “a picture of ourselves as a nation”.

The set will feature meadows, fields and rivers, with families taking picnics, people playing sports on the village green and farmers tilling the soil.

Real farmyard animals will be grazing in the “countryside”, with a menagerie of 70 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs.

Which is a bit odd, seeing as how most of our nation is made up of inner cities blighted by gang warfare, clogged motorways, grim out of town shopping centres and plans to build on any green patch that remains.

And I can’t see the event helping our trade surplus. Our government and big businesses are constantly fighting to portray us as a go-ahead, hi-tech nation, full of invention and enterprise, rather than jolly farming types whose technical ability stretches as far as using a spade or bowling an off-break.

It was more like an advert for a spaced-out version of The Archers than for staging the Olympics in a cutting-edge country at the heart of the advanced western world.

I know we can’t compete with the sweep and the spectacle of Beijing or Sydney, that we’re trying to go for a softer, cuddlier approach, but cricket? Mock rain clouds? The thing is, that however impressive, colourful and exotic they are, opening ceremonies always drone on for hours.

Setting all this stuff up, then taking it all away again and getting thousands of athletes to parade around the arena will take days, not hours.

I can only imagine that this is all just a cheeky tease and that Danny Boyle – the man who created such startling and memorable images in films such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire – has something really dramatic up his sleeve that he doesn’t want to give away. At least, I really, really hope he has.

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch is on its way to Cumbria!

I can’t really explain why, but for some reason I’m getting quite excited about it all. I have started planning where to view it with maps, stopwatches, flow charts and military-like precision.

I’ve been impressed by the huge crowds that have so far turned out to watch its progression across the south of the country, into Ireland and across Scotland and I’m sure they’ll be the biggest, loudest and best in Cumbria.

I’d like to congratulate all our torch bearers for being nominated to perform a once-in-a-lifetime honour.



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