The Olympic Torch – Henleaze, Bristol

Lost Toy seeks view of Olympic Torch

Does a symbol ever lose the taint of its past and its origins?  How many people know that the Olympic Torch travelling the UK right now, much in the style of the Tour de France, was dreamed up by Carl Diem to cloak the 1936 Berlin Games in ancient Greek culture?

I admit to having profoundly ambiguous feelings about this event and this summer’s Games in London.

Olympic Torch Audience

Gathering Crowds

I love the sight of people having a good time, young and old crowding the pavements, waving flags, children scampering around having a morning off school and blowing whistles, of elderly folk sitting out in the hot sunshine of this May morning, chatting to passers by; for a brief moment we are all on the main street of a village in inland Crete, hot, dusty and amenable. All these things are good and make everyone feel good.

The runners themselves with their personal histories of heroism in the face of illness, terrible war injuries and more, well if I were a military sort of person I would salute them, because I am proud of them and their strength of character and determination, they are all extraordinary people.

Zeb chats up the girls

But… I am also one of those people who sit and shake their heads and sigh, thinking about the Berlin Olympics. About Jesse Owens. About the Nazis. I guess for many people this is last century and not relevant.

I think about how governments use events like these to manipulate emotions and to cover up the places where they fall short.  They said of Nero that he fiddled while Rome burned, and I smell the cordite at times like these.

There is also the chaos and disruption that these events cause, the debts that arise, the post-Olympic stadia and swimming pools, impossibly expensive to maintain, falling into disrepair all over the world, or only being used by the children of the elite.

We can close our eyes and say enjoy the moment, seize the day – but we can also keep our eyes open and acknowledge that there are other ways of seeing events like these. How we approach them says a lot about who we are.

All photos are Brian’s who dragged his big steam train snapping camera out with him while I cuddled Zeb as we hung out with our neighbours. Who knew so many people lived round here? The security around the Torch was pretty intense too, makes you wonder what is going on. Local police, London police, running police, bikes, cars, fire engines in nearby streets.  It all looks kind of relaxed in these photos but under the surface…these things are all about surface. Time to do some planting in the garden I think.

22 thoughts on “The Olympic Torch – Henleaze, Bristol

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    It might not be as bad as you think. :) 12 years on, and Sydney has fantastic facilities as a result of the Olympics. Granted, they have struggled to stay financially viable, but they do host all sorts of events now, and there are whole residential suburbs now that never existed before the Olympics. Our Aquatic Centre is used extensively, both for events and by squillions of school groups and public swimmers.

    Are you planning to attend any of the games?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Sydney is a shining example of good practice :) oh forgot to answer your question… i am not going, will watch some bits on tv maybe. I admit freely I was in love with Nadia Comaneci, but I think that was the last time I watched a whole lot of it. I am not a sporty competitve sort of person, though I played for my school at lacrosse in my ‘shining youth.’

  2. hotlyspiced

    I hung out on the footpath queuing with hundreds of others to see someone run past with the torch. I loved it. There was such a feeling of unity and goodwill and excitement. I found it quite an emotional experience. But I love the Olympics. I block out the politics and celebrate the athletes – they are the ones who deserve the focus.

    1. Joanna Post author

      might be me ;) Summer arrived yesterday and the temp climbed from 11 c to 22 in the space of a few hours!

  3. heidiannie

    I agree with you- the Olympics are too inveigled in politics for my liking and I think it is nefarious the amount of money and fanfare spent upon them. The fact that I don’t like sports may have a great deal to do with my attitude, but the history and the histronics also plays a large part. I didn’t go to see the torch when it was carried through our area- but then I don’t like crowds, either.
    I DO like the cuddle picture with Zeb!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Well, as I said I am ambiguous, I am easily seduced by glitz and glamour and it is undeniable that the athletes work incredibly hard to do what they do, but I am in your camp at heart.

      It really wasn’t too crowded, people were spread fairly evenly up and down the roads and there are lots of side roads leading down to the route so it was easy to get away if you didn’t want to be there. The people were fun to see, I was impressed by the ones who dragged their sofas to the side of the road to sit on :) Zeb got cuddles from all sorts of people, poodles are particularly popular with the elderly. In one of the pics outside the residential home you can see him being fussed over.

  4. Le Petit Potager

    I felt like you prior to the Sydney Olympics. However, once the games arrived people were so kind and generous to each other. Watching the events on big screens in the city parks with everyone having a picnic; it was such a wonderful carnival atmosphere.
    I do hope you can attend some of your local community activities.

  5. Promenade Claire

    An excellent post, and interesting to read your take on it all. The torch is coming to Hastings and I know I’ll go out to see the event, I can’t quite explain why I will, I guess I need to have a think about that one.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Absolutely go and see it :) My takes on things are rarely as well explained as I would like and usually end up being over-simplified here.

  6. chocveg

    One of our girls from work was carrying the torch yesterday at the Bradford on Avon stretch, she was proud to be nominated, and has recenly done 2 marathons to fundraise for charities, and was very pround to bring it into work today to show us all!
    I agree with you about the hype… while the country falls, will this distract us for the summer?! Nice to have you back!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am not prophesying anything – just thinking about history and being a bit gloomy. I guess you could say I’m a spoilsport ;)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have an old VW sitting outside. I know what you are saying :) And thinking about it Olga Korbut was much much nicer, you are right on all counts.

  7. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    Oh dear, you’re far more reflective on the Olympics than I am – I love them for the spirit and atmosphere and world-wide involvement, but can see there is a darker side sometimes too. Hopefully you won’t mind them this year, even if you don’t love them!

    1. Joanna Post author

      No one should take me or my little blog too seriously, I was in one of my moods when I wrote that. They talked about the Olympics at a small relative’s school this week. He came home and told his Mum :

      Based on head teacher’s address to school assembly…

      “The Olympics is all about ‘equi – tally’  – a long time there was a man called Jesse and that bad man Hitler didn’t want him at his Olympics because he was black, but he ran anyway and won lots of prizes.  And there was a girl who was a really good wrestler and they didn’t like girls wrestling and thought only boys should wrestle, but she won too.  And there are people in wheelchairs who are really, really fast and for them there is the paralympics because otherwise they would beat the people using their legs.”

      I think he has it sussed now :)

  8. bakecakecrumbs

    I too am rather ambivalent towards the olympics. For the athletes it must be amazing and to participate in your own country is once-in-a-lifetime, but for the majority of the public, this isn’t going to do anything for us (aside from costing…). Perhaps I’d feel differently if I lived in London and/or loved sport. Hmm.

    I like your small relative’s take on it – I’m glad they’re putting it across like that in schools!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am back in Cockermouth at the time of writing and the Torch is due here this week, there is no escape for me ;)

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