Olympics Multicultural Fest

If you give a long-term Labour party media person £27 million to spend on a three hour show depicting his idea of Britishness, you are likely to get a metro-cultural view pretty much unrelated to the deep feelings of the 89% of the native British people who live outside London.  And that is what we got.  As one view on Twitter from New York had it: Danny Boyle caught Britain on Polaroid – “a funny people who have their socialist health service and a royal family as an equal institution”.  Also from New York: “hilariously quirky, eccentric, off-the-wall”.  The London Times, often thought by foreigners to be an expression of official British views stated that this opening ceremony was a “magnificent triumph of ideas”, presumably the ideas of metropolitan London.  To paraphrase a famous couplet – “What do they of London know of England, who only London know?”

Multi-cultural myth making

Myths are part of most nations’ histories, but an unacknowledged aim of this particular show was evidently to push the left-wing multiculturalist agenda at a time when even senior Labourites like David Blunkett, British Home Secretary 2001-2004, have acknowledged that a “new Civic Nationalism is needed to bind the country together” and lefties like himself “had not recognised in the past how much immigration had undermined national identity”[1].  Placing black people in scenes depicting “Merrie Englande” supposedly located 500-800 years ago, itself somewhat of a myth, shows that the “undermining” as Blunkett put it is very much on-going.

For their part the BBC’s cameras appeared for some of the time at least to adhere to a strict black-white-black-white sequence of faces when it was clear that the vast majority of the audience, as in the country outside London were white[2].

The BBC of course has form here as many have noticed[3].  The recent production of Henry V (in the Hollow Crown series) which is about as deeply English patriotic as any of Shakespeare’s plays, cast a black actor as the King’s cousin the Duke of York, who was prominent in nearly every scene.  By contrast the BBC and the publicly-funded Royal Shakespeare Company nearly always these days cast a Black actor in the role of Othello “for reasons of authenticity” even though Othello is actually a Moor.

Industrial Revolution Myths

Worse still than these Merrie Englande caricatures was the industrial revolution part.  As the BBC’s presenter Huw Edwards said in his guileless way, this seemed to be intended to show how the sheer awfulness of the industrial revolution was to be followed today by a “post-industrial” revolution which would replace the “satanic mills” of Blake’s 1802 poem Jerusalem and restore in some way England’s green and pleasant land, all emphasised by Parry’s splendid 1916 music in the background.

Leaving aside the little matter of the contributions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the Industrial Revolution, one may note that Robert Owen in the 1800s in Lanarkshire established cotton mills which were actually models of cleanliness, care for workers – many of whom were made co-owners – and efficiency, attracting attention the world over.

Modern Industrial Achievement

While one can appreciate that a pageant is neither a history lesson nor a shop window, nonetheless the relentless emphasis on the horrors of the industrial revolution could have been leavened with some modern industrial achievements: the Rolls Royce Trent Engine, designed and built in Derby, due to power nearly half the world’s airliners over the next 20 years, or the remarkable sequence of truly life-saving and enhancing treatments like the world’s first beta blocker drug discovered by Sir James Black in 1967 and developed by ICI at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, or Sir John Charnley’s hip replacement procedures developed in Manchester (1962-1980).  These are world-shaping discoveries and developments which would have resonated in the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people watching.  Instead Boyle served up a truly absurd, children-romping-on-hospital-beds allegory of the National Health Service.  However with one in three births in London being to foreign-born mothers, overseas countries are quite happy to see Britain provide what is now in effect a free international health service, which no other country has ever wanted to emulate[4].

Examples of modern British discoveries would have resonated also with the Chinese private enterprise delegation who are presently in Britain specifically to examine how Britain lost its industrial lead and to learn how the successes referred to above avoided the fate of so much of British industry.  Prime Minister Cameron’s call to foreigners to invest in Britain would have been more convincing had foreign visitors seen modern industrial Britain displayed in an eye-catching way which each of the above three examples and others such as the novel Shard skyscraper would have allowed.  Instead we got a multicultural theme park with the last 50 years represented by an extended edition of Top of the Pops – great fun for the teenagers, but not a serious depiction of what we were and what we as a country desperately need to be.

IOC still clinging to French

In this regard one aspect of the Opening Ceremony has escaped comment and this was the announcement of the Queen’s arrival in French together with an invitation, also in French, to the audience to stand up.  It was something of a relief that the Queen made her “Opening of the Games” remarks in English.  This was followed however by every country being introduced using the French version of its name like at the Eurovision Song Contest.  What can the watching millions in Asia and South America have made of this nonsense.  Oh we know that French is the so-called official language because the founder of the modern games back in 1896, Pierre de Coubertin, was a Frenchman, and typical French vanity has held on to this habit ever since.  The London Games’ Organisers Locog should however have found the backbone to say to the International Olympic Committee that now we are in the twenty-first century we were going to conduct the proceedings in English in our country England, for the benefit of practically everyone watching overseas, including the 140 plus countries which didn’t actually exist way back in 1896.

[1] ITV Channel 5, 14th May 2007.

[2] The National Statistical Office’s latest (2011) estimates for the size of the ethnic minorities in the UK as a whole, including mixed race are Black 2.6%, Asian 5.5%, Mixed race 1.2%.  Figures excluding London are White 93.1%, Ethnic Minorities 6.9%.

[3] E.g. As Greg Dyke, former Director-General of the BBC, 2000-04, described it as “hideously White” on 1st and 6th January 2001 on BBC Radio Scotland.  Dyke went on to say that by 2003 10% of the BBC’s UK workforce would be from ethnic minorities and 4% of management.  The total ethnic minorities in the UK as estimated for the winter of 2000, i.e. when Dyke was talking, were 6.5% so Dyke’s target of 10% would considerably over represent them (see the Data page on this website) even today.

[4] The most recent of many disasters was exposed just days before Friday’s fantasy at the inquest of a young man left to die of thirst in a hospital bed despite even contacting the police for help.  The police came, but were turned away by hospital nurses.

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2 Responses to “Olympics Multicultural Fest”

  1. Ageing Albion says:

    Bear in mind the official statistics will not include (save possibly as a guess) illegal immigrants, who may number anything between one and two million in London alone.

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  2. Horatio says:

    All the National Statistical Office numbers are estimates, except at the decennial censuses where the figures depend on residents filling up the forms; illegals obviously won’t. Many British don’t fill up their forms either to avoid losing their non-dom status.

    Between times the NSO relies principally on the International Passenger Survey (which is used to produce in-out figures on a sample basis), supplemented by the Labour Force Survey and issuance of national insurance numbers. There are no direct checks on EU immigrants at all. Sir Andrew Green’s Migration Watch estimates 750,000-1,000,000 illegals for the UK as a whole. Most will be in London, Manchester and other big cities one guesses. Major sources of illegals are non-EU Eastern Europe and Turkey as well as Africa and Asia.

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