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.
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.
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.