A Very British Olympics

The closing ceremony for the London Olympics kept us up until 1am last night, as did the opening ceremony two weeks ago. We’ve had a rather sporty two weeks here, seeing some new sports, and catching up with others. Full coverage of all sports was available online for the first time ever, so I got to watch the whole fencing and canoe/kayak slalom competitions (sports I’ve done a fair bit of in the past), which normally only get a half hour in the programming.

All in all, great fun.

The opening ceremony I thought was more Christian than I expected, leading off with the hymn Jerusalem, featuring Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah, and Abide with Me towards the end. I didn’t expect that, but it was nice to see (all great hymns, imho).

The closing ceremony featured Lennon’s Imagine very prominently: a hymn to secularism, with lyrics specifically in opposition to the divisions religion causes. That was more expected, and probably reflects British culture a little more, but was also good to see.

But ultimately the spectacle was a big reminder that people are just people. We cheered for the Brits here, of course, but its easy to forget how far we’ve come even there: one of GB’s biggest stars of the games was Mohammad Farah. But the triumphs and disasters knew no boundaries, my jaw dropping moment of the games was Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba annihilating the competition on the last 600m of the 10k to defend her olympic title. I cried with South Korean Shin A-Lam as she sat distraught on the piste denied her dreams by a technical glitch in the women’s épée. And I felt the warm glow of humanity as the Ugandan national anthem played in the closing ceremony signifying Stephen Kiprotich’s marathon win: the country’s first gold for 40 years.

Sporting success takes money. Britain spent between $5m-$10m per gold medal, using our disproportional national wealth to buy our success. The staggering success of the US olympic teams reflects the staggering level of investment in their elite athletes. So in the spirit of the indomitability of humanity, let’s all particularly celebrate, Grenada, Jamaica, Mongolia, Georgia and Kenya, who top the GDP-per-medal table.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Very British Olympics

  1. Great link but sucky data display. Does anyone use this data to show us the relationship between GDP, Population and number of medals. I need visual graphs. I want to make conclusions ! Any help?

    Maybe Mr. Ian can do it for us. (loved your essay here)

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