August 21, 2016
July 28, 2012
For each swift step along the Rio track, a full training day away from home and family.
So many miles on the clock, if he were a car you’d have to scrap him.
But work, work, work means Mo owns the starting line and the finishing, too.
Though low key on TV, his interview persona masks a desperate man.
Desperate to win, is desperation still. Now another medal’s near promised
To his youngest, Farah’s just another father with something yet to prove.
When victory comes, biting on gold as if Olympic medals are the chocolate coins
Other kids must be content with. And the door of his Home Counties home
Chiming ‘Westminster’ in a silly suburban echo of Big Ben.
Out of everyday particulars, close to banality (even if it’s rude to say so),
This way comes the sublime, attacking line that is Mo Farah on the move,
Defeating all contenders and condemning these words to doggerel by comparison.
Between choruses Sir Paul McCartney shouted, ‘I can’t stop it’. He was kidding himself if he thought that audience participation in ‘Hey, Jude’, the closing number in the London 2012 opening ceremony, was unstoppable. At 12.50am in Stratford’s Olympics Stadium, SingAlongAMacca was more gently simmering than boiling over; and plenty of seats were already empty by the time Sir Paul stood up to conduct the final chord. But supposing he meant Britain compulsively remixing itself – frantically sampling itself in a bid to hold the world’s attention, then the ceremony up to and including his own participation in it, proved him right. Out of the mouths of baby-faced old men….. Out of the ground: in the opening ceremony’s most compelling representation of British history, concertina-ed chimneys sprang from the turf to symbolise the rise of Britain’s smokestack industries. Industrialisation really did make men as mobile as molten metal, so the scene in which a dramatised facsimile of ‘industrial Britain’ actually went on to mould the five Olympic rings, rang true. (How apt that a disused building on the former Ford’s Dagenham estate was used as a rehearsal room for this sequence.) So, too, the parade of iron bedsteads representing the formation of the National Health Service in 1948. Never mind that Sir Kenneth Branagh, the actor presiding over relentless industrialisation in the role of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, politely refrained from lighting his cigar; or that few Brits would have recognised Brunel without the aid of TV commentary, helpfully scripted in advance. The section highlighting Britain’s formative experiences between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth, managed to keep its line. In accordance with the original, historical period, there was certainty in the tableaux, too. By comparison, the lengthy retrospective of British pop culture, with the athletes’ parade sandwiched into it, was circuitous rather than directional. Scores of micro-samples – from ‘Pretty Vacant’ to ‘Tiger Feet’; from Queen to the Queen, were pasted into the presentation like so many examples of clip art. Old Man McCartney was there as a replica of his younger self – a sort-of hologram with sadly sunken cheeks. As they buzzed around a world audience of ‘up to one billion’, these relics made for a messy mixture. Yet all the ones-I-made earlier (why no Blue Peter?) comprised an accurate reflection of London as it really is today: the place where things produced earlier (culture from the past, commodities from elsewhere, capital derived from global production) are continually re-mixed, re-branded, and re-launched around the world. So if this part of the opening ceremony was no more purposeful than a merry-go-round, that’s telling it like it is. True to form, television coverage of the ceremony had not even finished before images from two hours earlier or even two minutes ago were being recycled and beamed around again in a brief reprise of the ‘historic’ occasion. (Commentators describing an event as ‘historic’ when it has not even finished yet, have already pinged it into a higher orbit of continuous recycling.) On last night’s showing, this part of the world really ‘can’t stop’ circulating itself; even while the Olympics are on, it’s the only game in London town.