A lot of people (journalists, bloggers, men in pubs) have been mouthing off about how shit Britain is, specifically in comparison to China and substantiated by our eight-minute segment in the Olympic handover – which was, let’s face it, shit to the point of being surreal.
I beg to differ. As a letter to the Telegraph pointed out earlier this week, in Edinburgh during the summer months they manage to pull off a spectacular Tattoo on a daily basis which wows even the Chinese. I would go even further – step outside Edinburgh castle in the month of August and the city is full of similarly spectacular achievements, although many people miss them for all the surrounding shit.
All over the country there are awesome – I’m not being sarcastic – awesome displays of jousting, morris dancing, Anglo-Catholic ceremony, the occasional royal jubilee spectacular (I’m thinking of the fireworks rather than the rock concert). We can do a damn fine state funeral, we can stage mock battles on a huge scale, and a group of amateurs can rescue a real live steam railway and make it run again – yes, it all sounds a bit odd and English, but it’s still impressive, so why on earth do people think we haven’t got anything of value to show the world? We can do spectacular, and moreover we can do it at a fraction of the cost of the Chinese opening ceremony.
All that our eight-minute segment in the handover demonstrates is that the decision about what ought to represent Britain should not NOT NOT be left in the hands of an Olympic committee with no experience of staging a spectacular. Give it to the people who run the Tattoo, give it to Cameron Mackintosh, give it to an amateur railway society for God’s sake, anything to avoid another brainstorming session with some enthusiastic intern saying “hey, how about Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis! On top of a red bus!”
Sadly, I suspect our own opening ceremony will be very much the work of the kind of committee that came up with the eight-minute handover show, or indeed the 2012 logo. If it is then it will at least sum up exactly why Britain so often looks shit in public these days.