Olympics + Politics = Theatrics
On Friday night, London 2012 Olympics got underway with a spectacular opening ceremony that entertained a vast global audience of more than a billion people, as never before. Its success stemmed from the fact, unlike what we have seen before, that it was not something planned with the motive of outdoing or outclassing whoever held it last time around.
On the contrary, it was a brilliant orderly-execution of one man’s vision that struck a chord with millions while transcending a range of psychological barriers that naturally exist among nations.
Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning film director and the creative visionary behind the project, won the universal praise, even from the critics who are naturally not Britain’s best friends, both in Europe and beyond.
While taking the attention of the viewers, first on the agricultural era of the countryside punctuated by breathtakingly-picturesque pastures centuries back and then through a change in landscape during the Industrial Revolution, Mr Boyle let his inspirational sparks cross every single stage with little or no resistance – and all on a piece of purposely-built land within the stadium!
Who thought that there would be flock of sheep or cows grazing the pastures in one of the largest cities in the world, let alone in an Olympic stadium? Even in my wildest imagination, I never anticipated 320 hospital beds in a sporting venue just to represent the health service of the host nation. They were there to entertain, not just the sports fans, but, as Mr Boyle clearly said, everyone.
Then, there was British humour, an unmistakable element of its culture, extending from the man in the street to the highest institution in the land, the Monarchy.
When Mr Bean took to the stage, all his fans knew what he would be up to, even if he was assigned with the most enviable role in the orchestra – playing a single note. However, none anticipated the Queen, who strictly sticks to her traditional role, would board a helicopter with James Bond and then jump out with the aid of a parachute in the middle of the night.
She seemed to have done just that which thrilled the viewers, according to what we hear from every single media source, more than anything else. Wearing the same outfit, used in the recording done nearly four months ago, she emerged through the crowd just in time with a slight chuckle, clearly displaying that she was a willing partner of the stunt, not just a passive participant.
History was made inside the stadium; a new Bond Girl was born. At 86, she showed her mettle with a subtle message – not to underestimate Her Majesty the Queen’s ability to surprise the subjects when they least expect it.
The opening ceremony was a huge success. It was inspirationally-productive enough to renew an interest even among the sceptics, who thought the Olympics, especially in tough economic times, were wasting public funds.
The organizers got the much-needed impetus with the remarkable success in the first phase. However, there are still challenges lying ahead, not necessarily in terms of winning the highest number of gold medals.
There were serious issues, for instance, with the sale and allocation of tickets; news came out on Saturday about scores of empty seats in certain venues, when there are plenty of sports fans who need tickets, but couldn’t buy them. The issue snowballed into such a major embarrassment that the head of the organizing committee, at one stage, even threaten to name and shame the sponsors who are guilty of the questionable conduct.
On the political front, meanwhile, Mittt Romney, the Republican presidential hopeful, left Britain without any medal-success. His visit, on the eve of Olympics opening ceremony, may have been planned to get a shot in the arm for his campaign; much to the dismay of his fans on both sides of the Atlantic, however, he shot himself in the foot by making a remark which clearly annoyed his host.
Traditionally, the Republican in the US and the Conservatives in the UK see eye to eye on many issues. However, in Mr Romney’s case it is the Conservatives who launched the devastating collective attack on Mr Romney.
Boris Johnson, the outspoken Mayor of London refereed to Mr Romney as a ‘guy’ before ridiculing the assessment of the latter. Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, rebuked Mr Romney’s credentials by pointing out that holding the game in one of the largest cities in the world is not as easy as holding it in the middle of nowhere, a sarcastic remark for Salt Lake city where Americans held the game under the leadership of Mr Romney.
Mr Romney managed to do very little to salvage what was left of his political acumen, when he addressed the leader of the Labour Party – and that of the Opposition – as Mr Leader! The catalogue of disastrous blunders made by Mr Romney, only strengthened the widely-accepted notion among the British that the gaffe-prone Republicans – in the calibre of George Bush and Sara Palin - are living in a parallel universe to the rest of us.
Mr Romney, who questioned Britain’s ability to host the game successfully by citing a few issues on Wednesday while still in America, changed his tune on Friday – only after being battered by barrages of insults and criticisms from the host, having landed in Britain.
If the Olympics offered a gold medal for the sharpest ‘U’ turn, Mr Romney stood a strong chance of bagging it, before heading back to America.
If a political author wants to write a book of guidelines with the title, “How to Become the Enemy Number One of Your Host”, Mr Romney inadvertently offered quite a few tips for its contents.
Americans were not the only ones who added the political flavour to this great event.
The North Korean women football team walked off the match when the wrong flag was displayed on a screen due to a combination of human error and technical glitch. The fury on the face of the coach was mathematically measurable when he pointed out the mistake to the Olympic officials. An apology was made and the issue did not develop into a major diplomatic rift.
The Lebanese Judo team, meanwhile, refused to practise alongside the Israeli teams. Saudis threatened to walk out if the women athletes were not allowed to wear the head-scarf.
Since the volatility in the Middle East is far from over and the situation in Syria can take a nasty twist at any time, the possibility for further political developments is fairly strong. So far, both Syrian and Iranian managed to install a porously-fragile hypothetical boundary between the hemispheres of politics and sports.
Having been sandwiched between the two dominions, the British officials have to hold their nerves for the next two weeks, in order to bring the greatest show on the earth to a successful conclusion, as the challenges are on the rise all the time in proportion to the global volatility index.
- Asian Tribune -