Wednesday, 1 August 2012

5 Cultural Observations from the Olympics!

1/ High Five whenever you can.
I’ve been trying to contextualize this for those of us who are not Olympians. Maybe when you’ve successfully sent an email, put the bins out in the nick of time - just spread the love and success by high fiving a friend or colleague.

Even if you’ve lost the point it seems a high five remains appropriate. In moments of extreme tension such as set point, or perhaps dealing with a difficult customer at work, a full chest slam or group hug is now de rigueur. Good to see too that the reassuring bottom pat has made an unexpected return. Reassuring yes, office friendly...no!

2/ London is a truly great international city.
With the rise of fast expanding mega cities in the east and the global south, big European cities will no longer be able to compete on size alone over the next 25 years. London has proved that size isn’t everything. The public transport was good, the doomsday reports of gridlock were wrong, the signs and stewarding were excellent. In fact happy stewards in the midst of the early morning commute deserve a special high five all of their own! (see above, point 1)

I felt genuinely proud to see our capital looking at its best. Already home to the nations, modeling multi cultural hospitality to the whole world - and still managing to sell them a bit of overpriced tat too!

3/ Brits are too polite and only benignly patriotic.
We don’t really understand patriotism like the Poles who surrounded me at Earls Court for the Volleyball. The best we can do is Henman Hill and a bit of face painting, perhaps the occasional dig at the French/Germans/Argentinians from time to time.(Delete as appropriate).

Other nations do cross border hatred so much better than us. Listening to the Poles boo the Bulgarians as they served was a strangely uncomfortable experience for us Brits in the cheap seats - it’s just not cricket. The woman next to me from Wimbledon was more upset than a Daily Mail reader who had caught someone putting a cat in a wheelie bin! Of course – being thoroughly British, she did nothing about it other than tut!

4/ Danny Boyle is a genius.
Five days later and everyone is still talking about the Opening Ceremony that has restored our national pride more than 50 gold medals would. (With the undoubted help of Mr Bean and the Queen). Group hug and High Fives all round for Sir Danny Boyle!

It was mentioned non stop in the food queues/toilet queues/tube queues/stadium queues. Nothing shows our Britishness like our ability to queue well. Put that in the next Olympics with mixed distances – Mens 50m queue, Mens 100m queue etc – we will win loads of golds!

5. The Sound of Music.
What’s with the need to fill every gap in play with a loud tune? I know all of life is lived to a soundtrack now, and anyone under the age of 30 has their ears filled with phones permanently. The swimmers in their overcoats and oversized headphones are showing that, bizarrely shutting out the encouragement of the biggest crowd of their lives.

Sport doesn’t need diluting with a tune when it already comes with a roar! Truly great sporting moments are reduced by the addition of music. A moving song can be added later for the youtube clips and super slow mos on HD.
It’s an unnecessary import from American indoor sport, built on the need to stimulate people with short attention spans. Don’t the Americans realise, us Brits were brought up on a diet of five day Test Matches and football games that can end 0.0. We have learned how to concentrate on sport. We don’t need Katy Perry blaring out on the terraces during the game – some music over half time Bovril will be fine. We don’t need Cheerleaders – being told to be cheerful only induces misery.

A uniquely London Olympics could take a helpful cultural lead here. Listen - the only appropriate soundtrack to a point won or lost in a sporting arena is the gasping and cheering of the crowd. That’s all.

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