Now thick grey clouds cover London, the euphoria starts to wear off. We don’t think the audience quite got the implications on the comedy show ‘Mock the Week’ the other day, when Andy Parsons talked about Sir Ian McKellen at the opening of the Para-Olympics, and Magnito from the X-Men, but stopped short of mentioning “the mutants”. Then even Jimmy Carr, Master of the outrageous joke, has pulled himself in, perhaps after that slap about Jersey tax haven antics, and called this “our finest hour.” He was genuinely moved and involved, we hope not just on the advice of his PR advisers. Well, we can’t run a Marathon, always flopped the steeple chase and long back shot-our-put, but we can let our little fingers dance on typewriter keys.
Good God, the closing ceremony of the London Para-Olympics, and indeed the whole Para-Olympic and Olympic Games, has been so deeply moving and inspiring, we think we’ll vote for Boris Johnson (A Tory Mayor). Talking of God, did you note the pagan and seasonal rhythms of the whole thing, with an essential spirituality right at the heart of Weird UK? As for the Para-Olympics, the adversity those people have conquered and face daily puts Phoenix Ark to shame, but it isn’t even about that, it’s about different spectacles and perceptions, the astonishment of the human spirit, and the will to try and try again. The love shown in London, the human dignity and the shere explosion of talent, creativity and invention, is an inspiration to the World, including Coe’s speech at the end, and if we can wake up a little, we must start to seek one world solutions.
Just before the Games The New York Times ran an excellent lead editorial on the “Bread and Circuses” element of David Cameron doubling the opening ceremony budget. Perhaps, keep an eye out, but where the Romans steeped the masses in blood and cruelty, the Games have steeped Britain in rightful dignity. Out of such shames as the London Riots, with whatever social causes, yobs stealing from injured foreign kids, the horror of abuse in British care homes, or the never-ending spectacle of fingers shamelessly in the pie at the top. The stamp from the start has been inclusion, of everyone, not just the triumph of excellence, and for Games supposed to be a-political, they have been astonishingly and unashamedly political. Well, good for them, stand up for what you believe, and since politics these days seems to have no easy answers from Right or Left, if any at all, believe in something bigger than it all too.
That’s what the Games have really done, shown the enormous complexity and tradition of the British legacy, its astonishing history and culture, and blasted it into the future. Those opening and closing ceremonies proved the triumph, ignoring the dreadful mid-Games closing, not only of all those athletes, all those Games Makers, but of the artist and creator, and those ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’, as Shelley called them, poets. Now The Flaming Lips have even been demoted to number two here, after Coldplay’s Mellow Yellow, (or ‘Rebel’ and ‘I used to Rule the World’), the Para-Olympic orchestra adopted as top classicists and we’ll see if that “momentum” talked about by David Cameron last night can carry into any visionary action in the UK, that will not make such Games a sideshow and let us all down. Namely can you just cut your way out of Recession and, if the UK needs a more visionary solution, who is the leader to bring it?
Then, to anyone despairing or giving up, not kicking against the pricks, not fighting again and again, (perhaps trying is a better verb), or even thinking it’s only about being British, remember it was a German Jew, Dr Gootman, who fought for injured lives out of the Second World War and started those games at Stoke Mandeville hospital, as everyone giggled or looked away, planting an extraordinary seed, we have just seen bloom in fire. Both the Para-olympic and ordinary Games have indeed come home and might convince us all that even the nasty Darwinian fight of nature is more complex than that, and that everything exists in a mutually sustaining bio-spheres, we are fully capable of wrecking. That the journey of life and consciousness, however frightening at times, is astonishing. So it is about the limits of human possibility, or lack of them, that must also wake up to the animal biosphere we emerged from too.
We all want to blub at times, seek the easy ideal, find the righteous cause, walk the rhetorical hire-wire, but for any raised eye at Coe’s “made in Britain” stamp, why not be extremely proud, and ride the wave of such creativity too in the World? That’s real life too, just as it is a truism that people in wheel chairs are as capable of being as nice or nasty as the rest of us, though have more to cope with. There is a profound difference between sentimentality and genuine sentiment though, between mad visions and the visionary, between schlock and real love, and these Games, both “able bodied” and “disabled”, have given us a visionary sentiment, most essentially because all of it was grounded in true intelligence and meaning. Rock and roll can indeed change the world, and so can you, even if it’s only yours. It may well be someone else’s.