July 25, 2012
Posted by cafh
Along with millions of others, I was awestruck to learn of the plans for the opening ceremony for the forthcoming Olympic Games, wherein the Olympic stadium will be transformed into the “British countryside” on July 27th. The artistic director, Danny Boyle, stated that the show would create “a picture of ourselves as a nation” in what appears to be an almost exclusively rural setting, while the BBC report added that “The set will feature meadows, fields and rivers, with families taking picnics, people playing sports on the village green and farmers tilling the soil.”
The opening scene will be called “Green and Pleasant” in an obvious reference to the poet, painter and visionary William Blake, who spoke of “England’s green and pleasant land” in his poem Jerusalem, which has gone on to become our most popular patriotic song. William Blake was also responsible for the verse “Auguries of Innocence”, which condemned cruelty against animals in memorable lines such as “A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage” and “Each outcry of the hunted hare, a fibre from the brain doth tear”.
The benevolent influence and legacy of William Blake is clearly reflected in at least one aspect of the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games, but I cannot help wondering if, by way of dramatic contrast, some surprises are in store for the expected audience of one billion people worldwide as they contemplate Blake and Boyle’s rural idyll. Lord Coe has said that he’s sure it will be “a fantastic celebration that will welcome the 10,500 athletes from around the world and make our nation proud”.
Will this vast global audience get to see the ‘sport’ of “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable” in the form of a hunt chasing a fox? Will we get to see jolly, rosy-cheeked terriermen roaring up on their quadbikes to set their dogs onto the fox underground, perhaps digging into a badger’s sett while they’re at it? What about some hare coursing, with these inoffensive creatures being ripped in two while still alive by slavering dogs? Will there be an artificial river into which a stag can be chased before being attacked by dogs, shot or drowned? If so, then perhaps a few mink and otters can also be killed by the dogs in an affectionate and wistful nod to rural past times?
Can we expect some of the extras to build a huge enclosing wall, reminiscent of the Pink Floyd spectacular, wherein those who can afford to merrily blast pheasants, ducks, pigeons and others out of the air in a rural theme park?
Well, we shall just have to see if blood sports have any place in the twenty-first century and at the Olympic Games, but I personally doubt that the organisers have decided that these particular minority pastimes represent the best that Britain has to offer. We’re told that a 23 tonne bell will ring to open the ceremonies and this vast instrument is inscribed with a quote – “Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises” – from Shakespeare’s wonderful play The Tempest. The stadium will have a one million watt sound system, so will some of these ‘tempestuous’ noises be the amplified screams of Britain’s native wildlife as it’s torn apart by dogs, as well as the pitiful bellowing of stags and the hellish baying of hounds, with a counter-melody provided by the horns of huntsmen and the beat provided by combined horses’ hooves and shotgun blasts?
The full quote from The Tempest reads “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.” So, with that happy thought in mind, my money’s on the Olympic ceremony promoting cool sports, not cruel sports.
written by Maharbal July 2012