My Olympian change of heart

August 12, 2012 at 9:54 am (Anti-Racism, David Cameron, immigration, internationalism, Jim D, multiculturalism, Orwell, sport, Tory scum)

As a general rule, I subscribe to Orwell’s somewhat negative view of sport.

I have not voluntarily watched any Olympic event on telly (as opposed to being in a pub while the 100 meters final was beamed onto a big screen to the obvious carnal delight of most females present).

And I still hold to the view that the Olympics are, to a substantial degree, an execise in bread and circuses for the masses while the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators continue with their “austerity” fraud. The ruthless “branding” by such inappropriate sponsors as Coca-Cola and McDonalds was simply shameful. Even the much-praised volunteers, whose enthusiasm and commitment is not in doubt, were in a sense, undermining the minimum wage.

And yet, and yet…

The event does seem to have brought out the best in us Brits. From Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony to Mo Farah’s double gold, it was a games that, perhaps more by luck that judgement, became a celebration of social solidarity and inclusion, happily devoid of jingoism. I’m told that the crowd cheered the heroic back-markers  and the good-sport no-hopers almost as loudly as they cheered the winners.

I began to waver in my anti-Olympic resolve when I read about some jerk of a Tory MP denouncing the opening ceremony as “Leftie multiculturalist crap.” Left-wing critics and some local residents in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets, even when making fair points, were stuck with a particularly ludicrous figure as their self-appointed leader and their campaign was not helped by attempts to link it with the increasingly desperate and bankrupt Stop The War Coalition.

Crucially, it was the emergence of such heroes as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis (such a contrast to the manufactured “stars” and “celebrities” usually touted by the media) that convinced me. This was their Olympics – theirs and the people rooting for them . Of course not everyone who celebrated the success of the ex-refugee and the mixed-race woman will have been converted into a convinced anti-racist overnight. But it has to be A Good Thing, hasn’t it? Something we should be celebrating, not sneering at.

Most important of all, the Tory hypocrites who, on taking power with their Lib-Dem junior partners, immediately scrapped the School Sports Partnership (OK, there’s been a partial U-turn since), must not be allowed to pose as the friends of grass-roots sport in Britain, or to gain any political capital from the success of British sportsmen and women.

So if even this arch-curmudgeon can change his mind, so can I…

[NB: the Olympics have been widely described as a celebration of “multi-culturalism.” My understanding of the term, used in that context, is straightforward anti-racism, not the cultural relativism that the term all too often denotes].


  1. Rosie said,

    There should be a medal for Latest Converting Curmudgeon or Squealingest Brake U-turn. I loved the opening ceremony, and when twerps were saying “Marxist” I thought “must ask JD where Marx celebrated rural bliss and maypole dancing”.* I loved that when I turned on Radio Four’s satirical programmes, the comedians were admitting defeat – no jeering, nothing to take the piss out of. I never watch sport – but I did watch last Saturday’s events with a lot of pleasure, and pride.

    *Danny Boyle didn’t include Waterloo Sunset in his British pop/rock medley, Waterloo Sunset is a love song to London and the people. However it will probably be in tonight’s line-up, which includes The Kinks.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Yes, I know, Rosie: I’m just the latest in a long line of Converting Curmudgeons.

    For the record, Marx was not notably keen on what he described in the Communist Manifesto as “rural idiocy.”

    Playfair 2012 asks us to send a message about workers’ rights to the IOC:

    Finally, I’m taking a short break from blogging for a few days. Normal service will be resumed shortly. Meanwhile, Rosie: why not tell readers about your Edinburgh gigs?

    • Rosie said,


    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable and Olympian In Almost Supreme Wiggins Stylee said,


      Do you know Hal Draper’s translation and his argument for rendering ‘idiocy of rural life’ as ‘the isolation of rural life’:

      IDIOCY OF RURAL LIFE. This oft-quoted A.E.T. [authorized English translation] expression is a mistranslation.

      The German word Idiotismus did not, and does not, mean “idiocy” (Idiotie); it usually means idiom, like its French cognate idiotisme. But here [in paragraph 28 of The Communist Manifesto] it means neither. In the nineteenth century, German still retained the original Greek meaning of forms based on the word idiotes: a private person, withdrawn from public (communal) concerns, apolitical in the original sense of isolation from the larger community. In the Manifesto, it was being used by a scholar who had recently written his doctoral dissertation on Greek philosophy and liked to read Aeschylus in the original. (For a more detailed account of the philological background and evidence, see [Hal Draper], KMTR [Karl Marxs Theory of Revolution, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1978] 2:344f.)

      What the rural population had to be saved from, then, was the privatized apartness of a life-style isolated from the larger society: the classic stasis of peasant life. To inject the English idiocy into this thought is to muddle everything. The original Greek meaning (which in the 19th century was still alive in German alongside the idiom meaning) had been lost in English centuries ago. Moore [the translator of the authorized English translation] was probably not aware of this problem; Engels had probably known it forty years before. He was certainly familiar with the thought behind it: in his Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), he had written about the rural weavers as a class “which had remained sunk in apathetic indifference to the universal interests of mankind.” (MECW [Marx and Engels, Collected Works] 4:309.)

      In 1873 he made exactly the Manifesto’s point without using the word “idiocy”: the abolition of the town-country antithesis “will be able to deliver the rural population from the isolation and stupor in which it has vegetated almost unchanged for thousands of years” (Housing Question, Pt. III, Chapter 3).


  3. hossenpfeffer said,

    Mo Farah, btw.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Break a leg, Rosie.

    And thanks for the spelling correction, hossenpfeffer. Mo has now had his correct name restored in the main post.

  5. Robin Carmody said,

    I could have written every word of this post. Thanks.

  6. hondated said,

    Charlie yes spot on although I am still not convinced the majority of competitors are either drug free or come off of council estates its been great to see the reaction to Mo’s wins and this must have been a step forward in recognising we live in a multi culturalcountr and society.

  7. Gordon Brown said,

    I hate it when people take all the credit for everything good while disappearing during bad news, leaving junior to take the rap, then someone else comes along basking the good times.

    Tony Blair let me take over when it was all going down the pan – and I will never forgive him about that.

  8. Tony Blair said,

    Gordon – they would never have given you the Olympics, you miserable Scots git.

  9. Jimmy Glesga said,

    Yeah Tony Blair you Papist traitor. Gordon Broon is a good Presbyterian Proddie a man of the true faith like Eric Liddell. Get it right up you Blair AND ANYONE else that is not a Gordon Broon fan.

  10. A Mambo re-think? « Representing the Mambo said,

    […] at Shiraz Socialist a piece has recently appeared reflecting on the possibility that the Olympics might not be so bad after all. I have to confess to […]

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