The Games have begun ... the seven year countdown to the staging of the 30th Olympiad is over and a frenetic timetable of events is unfolding as I write – a few gold medals have been won by China since yesterday – the first in Shooting at Wellington Barracks in Greenwich.
2012 is being a quite extraordinary year for this small island that seems to tie so many threads of history, enlightenment, exploration, social culture and now technical expansion together in normal life, let alone during the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Summer Olympic Games.
I have to say ... it was a very English show – much of it I loved ... I still really am not keen on the 1980s and the Sex Pistols ... but c’est la vie – many are. It was fascinating to watch and then to hear and read the comments.
Bucolic – totally ... sheep, sheep dogs, shepherds, pastures, meadows, cows, ducks, hens, horses, geese and goats ... a Shropshire hill – though I haven’t heard mention by a journalist of this link...
... the Olympic Games in its pre-nascent state originated from ‘The Olympian Class’ under the banner of the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society in 1850:
“for the promotion of the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock and especially of the working classes, by the encouragement of out-door recreation, and by the award of prizes annual at public meetings for skill in athletic exercise and proficiency in intellectual and industrial attainments.”
|Depiction of rural life|
The local doctor, William Penny Brookes, was inspired to create these events after he read about the premature deaths of weavers, thought to be due to lack of exercise ... do we have games for Bloggers?
The first games were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports such as quoits, football and cricket; also included were running, hurdles and cycling on penny farthings; while there were some “fun events” including the blindfolded wheelbarrow race and in one year “The old woman’s race for a pound of tea” --- not sure how old the ‘old’ was!
|Dr Brookes with|
a penny farthing
The doctor also wanted the games to be all inclusive so included embroidery, knitting with some other domestic hobbies ... no-one was to die of inactivity under his auspices!
In 1859 the Society sent £10 to Athens as The Wenlock prize for the best runner in the longest race at the Olympic Games – it was won by Petros Velissarios of Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire ... one of the first Olympians. I have to say I forget that the Ottoman Empire was so recent ...
|Olympic symbols outside Velodrome|
The National Olympic Association (as it became known) continued sporadically on for a few years before ceasing operations in 1883. However Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited the Olympian Society in 1890 – which held a special games in his honour.
The Baron, inspired by Dr Brookes, then went on to establish the International Olympic Committee which spawned the Olympics we know today; while the Much Wenlock Olympian Games continued intermittently, until revived in 1977, and are now recognised by the IOC and BOA, continuing to this day.
Wenlock, one of the two Olympic mascots, gets his name from these villages.
So now we have this modern games at which each country hosting the Games competes with an Opening Ceremony ... as to who can put on the greatest show on earth ... but what could surpass Beijing – something that wasn’t clinical and precise ...
|Lowry: industrial river scene -|
title 'Canal Bridge'
Our Show was eccentric, quirky, down to earth, full of cultural references, typically British in so many ways; reminding us of our roots - with the hymn ‘Abide with Me’ and William Blake’s Jerusalem – the common name for his poem of 1804 ‘And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times” ...
Then onto the industrial age – Danny Boyle’s portrayal of this era was really quite special ... making me think of my post on Richard Arkwright, who is credited as the creator of the modern factory system ... as well as the silent movie “Metropolis”, the Lowry paintings, then their combination with sparks of the furnace flying ...
... Armageddon, Pandemonium or randomness looked like it prevailed as we remembered more parts of our social and cultural history – all touched with humour ... good old British humour ....
|Brueghel (1563): Tower of Babel|
As one commenter said – it’s probably a Show we need to watch again to get all the references and nuances ... especially to see The Queen in her first acting role – Daniel Craig must have had fun doing that sequence. I gather it was exposed – but was put down as an April Fool’s joke ... now the joke is on the other foot.
|The wild flowers at the Park are just coming into|
flower - the Orbit is in the background
I thoroughly enjoyed it ... and now need to catch up on some more of its finer points ... it was wonderful so many people of all shapes and sizes, all races were present and were included in the Ceremony – we are a very diverse nation ... while Stratford in the East End of London – that waste dump of land seven years ago ... is now a Park of superb achievement ...
|Olympic Park riverside|
The LA Times has written a concise article that you may like to read ... but there was so much inference within this very British production ... a Games fit for humanity rather than superpower politics of self-aggrandisement of past Openings.
The British humour won through – all played their part ... the volunteers – thousands of them – to The Queen ... and of course it had to be Bond, James Bond tempting our Majesty away from her Palace for a helicopter ride to the East End.
|Rolling Shropshire hills|
We were reminded of the rolling Shropshire landscape by the backdrop of Danny Boyle’s Olympic hill with its Jack and Jill path to the top of the hill ... bringing us full circle from those agricultural beginnings to this the 30th Olympiad being held in London for the third time ...
I don't think the world will forget this Opening Ceremony - it will stand apart - the Games have begun ... let’s celebrate them – win or lose ... it’s the taking part that counts.
LA Times article – can be found here
|Hardwick - much loved, but very ancient|
... I wondered if he'd last the course
he did - just!!
Dear Mr Postman ... I would like to thank all my supporters over the years while I was with my mother – I really appreciate all your thoughts and comments about her passing however they were sent ... on the previous post, via email and even cards by post, or by e- card ...
We will not forget her – equally I shall continue blogging, no doubt at times referencing her or Hardwick, who I suspect will travel with me now ... Hardwick is a ‘real-life’ toy dog – a constant companion to my mother during her recent years!
You’ve all been wonderful ...
I'll be away in Scotland for a few days this week - then back to a degree of normality and blogging again ...
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