There is a Flame That Never Goes Out – Reflections on the Olympics

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Missiles on roofs, a warship in the Thames and a no fly zone…it’s all a far cry from the previous London Olympics of 1948. They called that one ‘The Austerity Games’. Coming on the heels of World War II, it was a shoestring budget in comparison. But no one feared someone would plant a bomb in buy generic cialis online one of the stadiums. The Olympics is a sporting event at its core still but it’s also an exercise in security, political sabre rattling and an expensive display of national showing off.

Time was when the opening ceremony was a simple parade of the athletes. Now the money spent on the ceremony could keep a small country going for a year or two. Each one tries to outdo the one before. Lots of people cavort around in colourful but baffling costumes, acting out historic and cultural references that the commentator struggles to interpret. There’s a lot of symbolism and national pride and symbolism and storytelling and… more symbolism.

Having said that, the Beijing opening shindig was jaw-droppingly amazing. Surely London can’t compete with that? Enter Mr Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. If his direction of the opening were to reflect his back catalogue, we’re in for babies crawling across ceilings, Bollywood dancing and trapped rock climbers hacking off their limbs. Alas, we’ve been told we’re getting farm animals. Yes, farm animals. Choose pigs. Choose cows. Choose sheep. It doesn’t sound promising but given Doyle’s pedigree, I have to keep faith. As long as Boris doesn’t take part, we’ll be okay.

An entourage of sports psychologists and nutritionists fine-tune today’s sportsmen and women whilst agents build up the image of the potential gold medallists. A gold medal is a ticket to a lucrative media career. Now, what would Alf make of all this malarkey? Men of a certain age (and old tomboys like me) will remember Alf Tupper, the working class lad who graced the pages of The Rover and The Victor. He would finish up his welding and scoff his fish and chips before competing in the mile, winning ahead of his toff rivals, of course, and then get the train home. He would have told a nutritionist where to go, all right.

There’s a real sentiment at the heart of both the summer and winter Olympics. It’s based on individual stories of years of sacrifice and striving for excellence and teary-eyed champions on the podium with proud parents in the crowd. A few bars from ‘Chariots of Fire’ and we all melt. Politicians and governments sometimes rain on our parade, however. There’s a lot of national posturing, appeasing and old scores to be settled. Of course, political baggage has always shadowed the Olympics. The 1936 Games in Berlin was a platform for the Third Reich. America boycotted the 1980 Games because of the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan. For sport to be purely about sport, all human activity would have to be pure.

But all this will be forgotten – just for a few minutes – as we watch these men and women run faster and jump higher than anyone ever did before. The glow from the Olympic flame will mean something once more, before the foolishness of the human race extinguishes it again.