Having recently grappled with the challenge of squeezing a 50-year history of the environmental movement into just one book (Silent Spring Revisited), I found myself watching the Olympic opening ceremony with mounting interest. Although I’ll admit to misgivings about the whole green and pleasant land cliché, and the cost (sport has vanquished other charitable pursuits in recent times) I couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale of ambition of the proceedings, and perhaps that was the point. Fitting all of history into an hour and a half in a sports arena was bold and ambitious in scale. Well done everyone.
Watching the cast of thousands going through their routines it was also hard not to take home a general message about the triumph of humanity – especially British humanity – over stuff, through sweat and toil and thumbs in britches and chimneys exploding like time-lapsed stinkhorns out of that now not-so green and pleasant land. And while on the one hand that is inspiring and arousing, on the other it encapsulates part of our problem as a species: perhaps just a little self-regarding? It’s 2012. The planet is creaking under our strain. Something has to give.
I’m not sure I’ve properly forgiven Danny Boyle for what was done to the beach in The Beach, but my old room-mate Hamish Hamilton was in charge of projecting the whole TV spectacle to the watching world, and so I was rooting for them all. Nervous, even. And for us as a country, or countries. I know quite a lot of morale hangs on these things, if not especially my own.
The highlights for me, beyond the obvious Mr Bean intervention, the NHS bed-a-thon, and the musical medley (we do music well – credit where it’s due) was from an unexpected source. Suddenly, among the top hats, collarless shirts and sideburns, another life form was present. A hawk was scooting across the screen, faster than anything else we’d seen. And of course flying, which is one thing we can’t really do. A kestrel! Kes, more precisely. The iconic raptor of British film industry and working people’s dreams, symbol of many of our aspirations. A reminder that we share the planet with something else, as inspiring for many of us as Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Rebecca Adlington, Wiggo, whoever.
Kes delivers Olympic flyby
One of the things that an Olympics event, wherever it’s being held, ought to be referencing in the year 2012 is the environment. The links between sport and conservation aren’t immediately obvious and have never been made so till now, but that needs to change.
What would Rachel Carson have thought? I think she would have agreed.
Conor Mark Jameson
P.S. I woke this morning to another welcome and unexpected wildlife/Olympic fusion. No fewer than six magpies were jousting on the roof of the barn opposite my house and bed. I blearily counted through the old rhyme… and of course it’s six for… gold! I’m pleased to say that for Team GB today the magpies were right on the money.