Jul 29

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An Olympic start

The queen drops in

The queen arrives in the traditional manner












It’s estimated that about twenty seven million people in the UK watched the Olympic opening ceremony last night. It was indeed a triumph, and most of the critics agree. It really was one of those rare moments when you realise that this country is a great place to live. This small island has made a huge contribution to global sport and culture, way beyond expectation for its size. The media narrative is often about knocking everything, and telling us it will only ever get worse. Even if there is a ring of truth about that, last night was about celebrating Britishness and the rich cultural seam that is still being worked throughout the land, year in and year out. We are not a nation that likes to tub thump and chest beat on the whole. We cringe when we see Americans routinely do so. Last night’s ceremony told the world that we’re still here, and reminded those abroad that a fair chunk of what constitutes global popular culture still has ‘Made in Britain’ stamped on it, JK Rowling being an example. In the technological innovation stakes we were reminded that British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee helped create the medium within which you’re reading this now.

The ceremony was forward looking; placing the next generation to the fore, perhaps with the exception of Paul McCartney who seems to be getting mixed reviews. The whole thing could have been a bit stuffy and elitist, but with Mr Boyle in charge it was always going to be populist. The segment applauding the NHS was very poignant in this time of great changes to health provision for all of us. I’m sure Mr Cameron paused for thought, and considered how his manifesto pledges of ‘No reorganisation of the NHS’ now ring hollow to most people. Of course, our area is being hit harder than most by these top down changes to the NHS with the loss of many of our local hospital services at the Queen Elizabeth II.

All involved did a great job, especially those who dreamt it all up. It was a festival of cultural reference points which segued into one another moving the story along to its finale of the ingenious torch lighting. Even Bond, who was there, guarding Ma’am of course, must have been shaken AND stirred. It wasn’t cheap, £27 million quid, about the same number who watched it, quite a coincidence. With the spectacle and the awe you could almost sense a sigh of collective relief… we pulled it off, and spectacularly. Had we not, gargantuan embarrassment and calls for heads to roll would have surely followed.

Outdoing Beijing on scale was never really an option, but we managed to connect with the mass of the people, and tell our story, far more effectively than the Chinese dictatorship could ever manage. It was certainly our biggest moment of national unity and pride in the last few decades.

Even Boris Johnson became emotional, what this short clip:


As the teams filed on to the track you had to wonder about the countries with just a few team members. What are the stories behind how their athletes won a place on the team?  You can bet fair play was sometimes absent, those who are sent out to represent crooked and oppressive regimes are probably not all chosen on sporting ability alone. It was encouraging though that for the first time every team comprised at least one woman, even Saudi Arabia. It was at this point that Welwyn Garden City got a mention by the BBC commentator. The Afghan team are staying/training in Welwyn Hatfield. This six person team of five men and one woman seem to be enjoying our area which I’m sure is a refreshing change to the environs of Kabul. The lone woman Tahmina Khohistani was interviewed in the Telegraph on Saturday where she commented favourably on our area:


“The people will never accept me and what I am going to do. But it is different here because I am running in the Olympic Games and I need to be relaxed with my clothes.” She is relishing her first visit to the UK, enjoying training in Hatfield. “There was no one to disturb me, no one to look at me. That was the very best for me.” Kohistani is most struck by how much everyone smiles. “It is the thing I have learnt from your people – when I go back home I am going to do this with my people also. It is the most wonderful thing.”

You can read the whole interview here,  Tahmina’s road to the Olympics was clearly very rocky and fraught with dangers, she is to be much admired.

The only fly in the Olympic ointment was Conservative MP Aiden Burley who tweeted during the ceremony  “Thank God the athletes have arrived!  Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap.”  See the full story here.  I would imagine Mr Burley’s political career has now peaked, he can probably now no longer look forward to his Christmas card from Number 10.

Overall the ceremony kicked off the Olympics in grand style, and without national embarrassment, we couldn’t ask for more. No doubt there will be a host of gaffes and muddles as the thing rolls on, but in the starter for ten, we scored the perfect 10.

You can watch the opening ceremony on Iplayer for the next few days here:



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