The week in review
The Olympics ended today. Besides offering plenty of amazing performances, the event for me was interesting in that it something as rare as an (almost) uniformly positive display of national pride by the customarily self-loathing Britons. Lame and messy as it was in parts, it was great to see an opening ceremony that was essentially intellectual and — as most good things British — self-aware, with a political edge (tying into the upcoming US presidential elections!) to boot. No stooping to reach the lowest common denominator, just the inevitable unselfconscious popular lameness.
And it was gratifying to see the Britons perform so well athletically, home field advantage or not, demonstrating that the healthy mind so effortlessly celebrated in the opening ceremony ties into a healthy body. It remains to be see whether the goal of inspiring a surge of interest in sports in Britain will come about, just as it remains to be seen whether all the big words about rejuvenating some of the most disadvantaged areas of East London through the building of the Olympic Village and attendant infrastructural lift will come to fruition. Right now, it’s just predictably ugly (the Olympic Stadium looks like so much scaffolding, lacking in harmony, and Anish Kapoor’s lumpy twirl in front is just an embarrassment, inelegant and pointless).
So far, however, it has been a bravura achievement, uniting Britons with the world in a way that reminds us of the the bedrock confidence that underlies the usual self-loathing and doubt. Not bad in this recessed economy, and not bad for something so fundamentally tied up in the negative empowerment of money and political prestige.