The legacy of these Games is looking dark...

Our UK Political Editor, Harry Cole, comments on the reaction to critical voices toward the Olympic Opening Ceremony

Thou shall not speak out against London 2012!
Harry Cole
On 30 July 2012 11:43

As Danny Boyle’s lavish sets are torn down, the flame extinguished, and the hysterics subside, perhaps it’s time to have a calm and reasoned look at the reaction to the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Was it spectacular? Of course it was. Was it moving at times? Yes - who could not be stirred by Doreen Lawrence, Mohammed Ali, Tim Berners Lee, and that seven year old nailing every single note of Jerusalem? Was it flawless? No - art never is and it will always have critics. If it did not, we would be in a very dark place.

I was one of the twenty-seven million viewers who tuned in on Friday and enjoyed vast parts of it. The stadium looked wonderful, the music was brilliant and the cauldron spoke for itself. I praised certain elements of it and I cringed at others.

I hated that sycophantic smile that Kenneth Branagh does when he knows he is in the limelight a long time before he dressed up in a top hat. I can’t stand mime or amateur-style dramatics at the best of times; when we are broadcasting a budget version of the Shire scenes from Lord of the Rings to the world, it is even more nauseating – but until this weekend holding such views was hardly a crime.

Taking to Twitter when the NHS was worshipped, as if it was not a state institution that has given us MRSA and lets young men die of thirst, I quipped: “Not even communist China were so brazen as to extol their nationalised stranglehold on their country so blatantly.”

I don’t like state worship. In any form. I found the Jubilee fairly nauseating too, but when I said that I wasn’t hounded for seventy-two hours. How come you are allowed to slag off the watery barge-fest online but not the Olympics?

So far that tweet has earned me a kicking in the New Statesman, twice that in the Guardian, endless tweets and some charming emails. Even the former footballer Stan Collymore weighed in online. We are through the looking glass when a man who beat up his girlfriend becomes a moral arbiter.

As he frothed and raged I began to find the whole thing hysterical, but then he’s used to making people’s ribs ache.

While I disagree with Aidan Burley’s reference to “multicultural crap”, I do agree with his lefty nonsense jibe, but even if I did not sympathise with part of his sentiment I’d like to think I wouldn’t be clamoring for his blood.

Too often we lament our cut out and keep rent-a-quote MPs who are always on message, and you wonder why they are always too scared to say what they think?

The second one puts his or her head above the parapet, especially if it is to criticise the sacred NHS, normally reasonable commentators literally call for them to resign. It’s madness – disagree, for sure. But silencing dissent? Come off it.

The media has lamented the tight rein that Locog and co (pun intended) have run these games on. From branding to broadcasting, missiles to Zil lanes, sponsors to speeches – the stifling of freedom in the name of the games has rightly been attacked.

But when you can’t even hold an opinion that differs from the rest of the sheep then surely Locog have won? If silencing people is the legacy of these games then count me out.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole where you can catch up on his musings as well as his work for the Guido Fawkes blog

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