Monday, 6 August 2012

Writing the Olympics, throw the superlatives.

London, a badly surfaced road, sometime in August. Bradley Wiggins, rides a bicycle steadily, taking care not to be crushed by a taxi, blown apart by a rogue backpacker or happy slapped by a local teenager. Overhead, the sound of planes can be heard, accompanied by more planes, beeping car horns and the flash of digital cameras.
This is just any other day, it is any other month, it is any other place, give or take a couple of acoustic details. This is the day we will all live every time we leave our houses in a morning- except just for this month, this somewhat special occasion when we can actually choose not to talk about the weather, gripe about the price of milk or moan about the length of time spent queuing up for things. This month, we can unite over common ground and choose, amidst bleakest of long term prospects, to actually celebrate some achievements.

The London 2012 Games has led a furore of opinion and dominated the news with politicians and dignitaries fighting amongst themselves for photo opportunities and retweets- everyone from Boris Johnson to Morrissey has had a go, and with mixed success. To think that London has been magically transformed in a year is a triumph. This time last August we were streaming live pictures, from many of the same places, but in that short space of time the flames have somehow accumulated- as if gathered in copper petals- and become a symbol of strength, unity and achievement.

The Mayor of London led the way with the soundbites, 'call me jingoistic' he said,
championing the opening ceremony on twitter and, within a week, the ageing Smiths frontman did just that, even going as far as to compare the mood and pomp of the blanket coverage to Nazi Germany. [More here (in new window)]

To be fair to Morrissey, it is possible to partly understand what he is trying to say. There have been Royals (notably the future King and Queen of Great Britain, official ambassadors of the games so understandably present), there have been outpourings and soundbites from the political party leaders and newly fashionable fringe sports have been elevated to headline news items. It is all a little bit skewed considering the BBC ran with the Syrian situation in the 'between olympics if you haven't switched over' 6 o'clock slot and the inside pages of the newspapers reported more flood damage up and down the country.

After all of these games have finished, and games they are despite the achievements, children will go back to their schools- emulating a sprinter from an island otherwise known for producing Bob Marley, Rum and famously good cannabis. Most of those children, despite the tagline 'Legacy', will never get the opportunity to be the best. Normal, state schools don't have the time, staff nor facilities to nurture those talents out of the gangly potential rowers, however good the intentions and so, when the background statistics come out for Rio 2016, they will probably still have the major proportion of competitors coming from the private education system.

It is about more than just that though. The education system is stretched as it is and so lumbering schools with a compulsory two extra hours of sports will do little real-term good. To have kids wanting to race on the pavements, to run around the blocks behind their houses and to attempt to throw the furthest rock or stick in their own time lets them dream. Morrisey and those who share his opinion may have found a particularly apt angle to strike from, but let us remember that the last time we threw a monarch off and started again we banned public performances and gatherings. He'd still be in the shit with the rest of us.

To be inspired is worthy of a little broadcast, in my opinion. If the doom mongerers can leave it be for another two weeks then perhaps kids will grow up not thinking so much about an unfair bias and have a go at achieving something for themselves. I should say, I have yet to see a silver spoon run a marathon on its own though, so take nothing away from any of the tremendous athletes.

Team GB have surpassed expecations across the board. There has been a feel good factor rarely seen all around the nation and it would come as no surprise to see such a hugely inspirational time make it into the world of literature before very long. There are back stories worthy of Pinewood studios (because we no longer need the Americans, do we) and to cap it all off, the blanket coverage of the games has been stacked with what I'm calling notebook grabbing moments. The camera work has been fantastic, the detail and accessibility second to none and for those that have wanted to catch it online, there has been a refreshingly extensive variety to choose from, meaning you can now catch your favourite athlete's most personal and proud achievements to date again and again and again.

To write about these scenes, and I am claiming them as art given the careful choreography, precision and definition, would be getting on towards what is known as the Ekphrastic. It is a term used for writing that studies artwork- sometimes descriptively, sometimes adding a further sense of understanding, sometimes dramatising. Using Ekphrasis is often a great place to start when trying to become inspired, when struggling for an idea, as it could refer back to any magazine photo, play, film or image that sparks or means something inside.

London, a freshly reddened cycle lane, sometime in August. Bradley Wiggins, world-dominating cyclist, is taking care not to be blown away by the scenes. Union flags have lined the route home and the finish line of The Mall could not be any closer. Nothing can be heard amongst the cheers as the TV commentator declares 'This is poetry in motion', accompanied by the flash of digital cameras.

I'm tipping my hat to the organisers, the coaches, the volunteers, the workers, the fans and the athletes themselves for these games. They are providing inspiration for many and given the sobriety of Morrisey's music, could do a thing for even the most helpless of misers.

Thanks for reading,


Ashley R Lister said...


Thank you. I had no idea that I shared opinions with Morrisey. :-)


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Christo Heyworth said...

Tnx, Shaun - thought-provoking stuff.