London 2012 – Shaken not stirred!

So the first week of the Olympic Games is almost complete and it’s been a lot of fun.  The opening ceremony wasn’t a total embarrassment and bits of it were quite spectacular and it went a small way to show just how varied and slightly mad we all are here.  I especially liked the sequences of rural England turning into the Industrial revolution and the construction of the fiery Olympic rings.

From Isambard Kingdom Brunell to the Olympics

This period is often thought of as a dreadful period for the poor workers involved but the sequence tried to demonstrate that though the Industrialists were very much keen to make themselves a fortune, they wanted progress and trade as a way to improve the lives of everyone… and this isn’t something always evident in the big business of today.

They did quite a good job mixing old with new though maybe I would have had a bit more of the old stories such as Robin Hood and slightly less of the admittedly very cool post 60’s music and film fest.  Seeing the real Queen meet James Bond and then sky-dive into the arena is not something many people will expect.

Some of the less noticeable things that I liked and which I think contrasts the U.K. with other countries or at least their ceremonies is a lack of  self-aggrandisement.  Also the ability to not have every perfect in the sense of not having a celebrity or sport star light the flame but instead have unknown teenagers, having a real deaf and blind childrens choir sing with no selections due to their physical beauty as occurred in China.  Also the moments of remembrance for people killed in war and though it was rightly said it was for all wars, the uniforms and sequences brought to mind the trenches of WW1 which killed so many millions and changed the course of the world and especially this country forever.

On a happier note I was pleased to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the ceremony.  In my opinion Tim is probably one of the worlds greatest men ever as he “invented” the world wide web and gave it to the world for free.  Undoubtedly he would be amongst the richest in the world if he had wanted to and his generosity must advanced world trade and communication by a decade so maybe the old Victorian spirit is still alive in some.

As for the sports themselves, what a pleasure it has been to watch minority sports in the evenings.  I am a bit old fashioned and haven’t watched tennis or football but only traditional olympic sports and over the week have spent hours watching badminton,gymnastics,  fencing, volleyball, cycling and a dozen other sports.

I really like how everyone in the crowd supports every competitor and wills them on to do their best.  What drama it is to see 4 years of training result in a medal or the the heart ache of an injury, near miss or disqualification.  Equally seeing people who will never win a medal but give their total best and become valiant losers either because they are from a poor country with no training facilities or because despite their hard work they just come against someone who is awesomely talented and on form.

Somehow it seems to have made almost everyone in the country happy again despite and never-ending recession.  People everywhere are talking about the previous days events and the historic places being used as a backdrop for sports such as Beach Volleyball in the middle of London.  Everyone at work and in the street is talking about the games and even at the doctors surgery I was at earlier this week people were grouped together watching the games on their iPhones

My favourite moment so far has been watching Bradley Wiggins win another cycling gold and seeing him conduct all the fans singing his name when he was awarded his medal.

Bradley Wiggins winning another Olympics gold cycling medal just over a week after winning the Tour De France. What a nice guy too and great sideburns.

Finally, two little related links which people might like and shows again why politicians and television should never really mix.  The first is funny and will no doubt be shown on clip shows around the world but needs a little explanation.  In G.B it has always been a historic tradition at times of celebration to ring out bells either at good times or bad.  For example  at signs of invasion in centuries past or in celebration of good news such as Royal Weddings.  In WW2 the sounding of bells was banned in case of German invasion and were then sounded throughout the land on V.E. Day my own Grandma was the first in her village to get married and be allowed to have the bells ringing.  Last Friday morning in the best traditions of these things the entire country was encouraged to ring bells  to welcome the Olympic Games and live on television our Culture Secretary led the way…

The second link shows the infamous London Mayor who is never slow to miss an opportunity to showboat himself in front of cameras and got stuck for 15 minutes high above the city on a zip wire.  Just think, in a few years time he might be our PM and in charge of the Nuclear arsenal.  Not exactly in the Disraeli, Lloyd George, Churchill, Thatcher or Blair mould is he but then again more memorable than others.  Should a world leader be memorable?

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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