28 July 2012

For the glory of sport and the honour of our teams

And so it begins...

Now as you may all know I have a healthy skepticism for the circuses of ultra-capitalism, particularly when the price of bread keeps rising. Barcelona would have been the last games that I had any interest in, I only remember Atlanta because of the bombing, Athens because of the poor planning, I slept through Sydney and made a conscious decision to boycott Beijing because of, well, you know... the totalitarian and autocratic ultra-capitalism, human rights abuses, slave labour, Tibet, exploitation of Africa etc, etc. So you could be forgiven for assuming that I would naturally ignore last night's ode to a faded colonial jingoism and glorification of the pomp and circumstances of a nation responsible for so much of the historical ills of the world.

But here's a funny thing, last night's opening ceremony was actually pretty great, surprisingly great one might say. I'll be honest and say that I watched it mainly to see what Danny Boyle (and Underworld) would do, and what he did was stand there in front of an audience of billions and turn his back on David Cameron and his perverted vision of a privatised "big society". The twee village greens of England's green and pleasant land were quickly replaced by a vision of a vibrant multicultural nation that immediately sickened the Tory faithful with its inclusiveness and admittedly bizarre celebration of the National Health Service (that's right America, you just watched 15 minutes of socialised medicine set to music that ended in Voldemort being banished by a death panel of flying Mary Poppinses. Now that's entertainment!), all performed to what must surely have been the greatest soundtrack ever for a criminal waste of public money (starting off with Surf Solar by Fuck Buttons, which I wish I'd seen the US commentators try and explain).

Of course as soon as the sun rose on Day One the true spirit of the games reemerged, with news of pepper spraying and mass arrests of cyclists who staged a critical mass protest while the opening ceremony got underway last night. It is impossible to think of these games without calling to mind images of rooftop missile batteries, preventative arrests of artists, fast-track trials conducted by video-link, armed soldiers on the streets to support failed and poorly trained private security firms (who despite their catastrophic failure are still allowed bid to run prisons) and the suspension of free speech both in the real world and online (especially ironic given the prominence given to Tim Berners-Lee in the opening ceremony) in favour of the commercial interests of corporations at a time when US corporations went to the Supreme Court to have limits on their campaign donations to politicians ruled as a violation of their own right to free speech. All of these point to the emergence of a temporary Beijing-style police-state existing to serve the interests of a business elite and I find it hard to believe that now all these authoritarian toys have been taken out of the box that they will ever be put back in.

Sure what more should we expect from a games whose mascot comes dressed in the all-seeing eye of a uniformed police officer?

Still, much like civil liberties in London I suspended my own cynicism last night and allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy all four hours of Danny Boyle's frenetic vision of what his nation could be (I didn't even look at Twitter once during the ceremony). Mind-numbed and with a warm happy feeling I then headed off to bed tired and without a care in the world, and sure isn't that what circuses are all about.

Best. Soundtrack. Ever.

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