The Olympics in 4th Place


Because I’m traveling at the end of this month I will miss the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Oh bother, woe is me. This is arguably the biggest cultural event in the world and I won’t get to watch it on television.

Well, two things: 1) the time zone difference means I would be at work anyway, and 2) it will likely be aired over and over again. And on top of that I show no excitement towards this event. I even missed most off the opening ceremonies in 2010 when the Olympics were in my own country, from drinking way too much wine and throwing up on my sister’s couch.

My cynicism about the Vancouver 2010 opening ceremonies came from knowing what this country is really like. We are very friendly and world leaders in self-deprecating humour. I don’t know anybody who’s ever seen a beaver in the wild, though, or a moose for that matter, but I know they’re somewhere within the political borders that apparently make up one united entity we can all describe the same way. The traditions of our native peoples in dress and dance and art are undoubtedly fascinating to people around the globe, but they’re a part of our country’s history rather than current state of affairs, and it’s a part of our country’s history that we originally sought to destroy. Huh, funny.

And being Canadian, being a commonwealth country still under the British Monarchy, and ESPECIALLY being largely of English heritage I am as unfazed about UK culture as I am about Canada’s. Vancouver’s opening ceremonies were headlined by Canadian musicians we largely don’t like – except everybody likes Michael Bublé’s charm if not music – and I haven’t bothered to look up the London lineup but I can picture it being the same. A Spice Girls reunion. Jedward. I can’t even fathom how little interest I will have in the cultural performances they put on.

And beyond modern day pop culture, I don’t see how England’s heritage overall can be accommodated into the modern Olympics. I have tried, but I really can’t get into soccer so I won’t give two fucks about how they work that into the mix. (And there’s already been Euro 2012, come on, we don’t even obsess over hockey that much over here.) Dickensian income disparities and child labour, which has actually been part of a year-long celebration already marking the bicentenary of his birth, is nothing to be proud of, and other Victorian literature is equally dismal. How can you possibly incorporate Shakespeare into a frivolous show revolving around modern sporting events? Any incorporation of British history as ancient as the Greek tradition would probably take a life-imitating-art turn that requires dwarves to dance around undersized models of Stonehenge à la Spinal Tap – which in itself was a mockery of the British.

I’ll grant you that Mother England is probably where we got our self-deprecating humour from, by which I almost entirely mean Monty Python. Most of my favourite moments in their sketches and movies have the quintessential Brit played by the late Graham Chapman, so they can’t even do “All right, all right, this is getting too silly” or “Yes, we have only had sex two times for our two children, but if we wanted to have sex we are permitted to use a condom!” There is no competition in the Olympics for Upper Class Twit of the Year. Are they going to make the Olympics a purely British experience from tourists flocking to spectate by ensuring that every quaint inn is owned and operated by the likes of Basil Fawlty? This satire is what I actually value about my heritage (that and roast beef and yorkshire puddings) but there’s no place for it in Olympic ceremonies. If they get Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow to make out for five minutes then I might be interested.

Now, the Paralympics to follow may be interesting being held in London given one of their highest-regarded military heroes having performed at his peak with one arm missing and blind in one eye. I doubt any of those events are scheduled to take place at Trafalgar Square so we can all celebrate how skilled the disabled can really be.

There’s already been enough of England, enough of London this year. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which took place on the dreariest of days in true English fashion, was enough of an over-hyped frivolous ceremony. We’re still recovering from last year’s Royal Wedding, and then there’s all the stress and worry over Prince Philip’s health. (He’s 91. It’s going to happen.) London will be in overload.

This is the third time London has hosted the summer Olympics, but its grandeur has grown exponentially since then. There wasn’t widespread television in 1908 or 1948, and at least in 1948 the British public had a few years to calm down from celebrating victory of war (but I can only imagine the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms the hoopla triggered in the public having lived through the Blitz). International crazed festivities do not fit in with Keep Calm and Carry On.

And I hope none of the fencing events mirror the sword fight between Hamlet and Laertes, for audience and athletes alike…although maybe that’s more of a concern for when the Olympics are hosted by Copenhagen.


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