The idea the world should arrive…and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable.
Sport, of course, can be divisive. Yet it can also be great for unity. Despite all the talk of “Plastic Brits” and the controversy stirred up by sporting personalities like Ron Atkinson as I covered in my film Escape from Doncatraz, many of us are made to feel good about where we come from and the things we share with others – thanks to sport; in this case, the Olympics.
When you live in Sheffield, it’s tough not to be proud of the success of Jessica Ennis this past fortnight. Beyond, Yorkshire has produced so many more top athletes in addition to Jess, that apparently the county would be ranked ahead of South Africa, Brazil and Spain if it was a country – which, given the browbeating it’s been subjected to for years by a disconnected, privileged Conservative central government, is not an entirely unhappy prospect. There is some desire for England’s largest county to have greater autonomy similar to that other Tory-loathing area known as Scotland.
A “big” underdog? Is that possible, you ask? (Look at the working class for examples of an often sleeping giant) While being the biggest county, Yorkshire has still for decades seen its resources plundered in order to line the pockets of the rich who typically dwell in London, host of the Olympics this time. And for all the exposed Tory hatred of Danny Boyle’s games opening ceremony celebrating industrialisation, immigration, multiculturalism and universal health care, the event reinforced the message to other countries that the Tories whose immensely unpopular manifesto only gained them 36% of total votes in our last election still do not reflect the values of Britain.
While the Tories repeatedly send out their dog of war, the disgraced Baroness Warsi, to attack organised workers and their unions, there was more controversy when Unite general secretary Len McCluskey suggested before the Olympics that the games might be a good opportunity to take action and engage workers in high-profile protests to highlight the damage inflicted on the public sector by a private sector-obsessed Tory party and the most right-wing British government since the Second World War. Now that might not be British, some claimed; it’s just not cricket, old chap!
That’s funny. Because when Australia came under criticism in its hosting of the Olympics in 2000, for its appalling human rights violations based on its mistreatment of aboriginal people there that was largely hidden from IOC findings, we were willing to accept that. And when I was one among many to stand up and speak out on the propaganda, press censorship, and human rights abuses by China as they hosted the Olympics in 2008, it went down okay.
So why is it, then, that we are so inclined to wear rose-tinted glasses when Britain hosts the games in 2012 and our government is accused of social cleansing and using the unemployed to steward the Queen’s “diamond jubilee” while having them sleep under London Bridge – all while continuing to decimate communities and making the public pay for private debt after the banking crisis?
When activists raised awareness of issues in previous host nations, it is not wrong for McCluskey to speak for millions when he says, “The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological, that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable.”
Yes. He was talking about us. He was talking about our country. He was talking about our government. And rightly so. Until we get rid of those currently in power, we can only take comfort in the fact that not the Tories but the opening ceremony’s themes, Jessica Ennis – and everything she represents – are what truly reflect us as a people.