Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Welcome to the UK - the world's village idiot

If you were holding your breath, it's at last possible to release you from your suspense. The £27m opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics will be a recreation of the English countryside. Complete with farmyard animals clucking and oinking their way around the stadium and 10,000 volunteers turning in cameo performances, presumably as milk maids and scythe sharpeners. Danny Boyle, the man responsible, says that he plans to involve NHS nurses in the show and will give them their own special role. Distributing anti-nausea medication to the British public, perhaps.

This mind-boggling spectacle of rustic kitsch - polished with some kind of post-industrial, quasi-environmental veneer - demonstrates a real poverty of ambition. Instead of embracing the Olympic Games as a platform for promoting the UK's future, we use them as a way of projecting an imaginary and idealised past. Let's not pretend this is the Britain that anyone recognises today or believes is going to emerge in the coming decades. It's a pop-up-book parody of times gone by, when families supposedly picnicked and rambled their way across meadows.

We are actually one of the most urban of European societies in 2012 and agriculture plays a very small part in our economy. The countryside is an ever-shrinking part of people's lives - a fact long recognised and condemned by those who still work hard in rural areas to earn a living. While there are many reasons for believing our urban focus to be a regrettable state of affairs, it seems pretty damn stupid to deny it as a fact.

Let's remember that the games go under the name of London 2012. Note to organisers: that's London, as in historic metropolis. The absolute antithesis of everything the opening ceremony represents. Fill the stadium with a pea-souper smog, me old china. Let's have a thousand Eliza Doolittles learning the Queen's English from a thousand Professor Higginses. You can keep the kitsch by all means. All we ask is that you lose the country.

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