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Can We Forget the Recession Until the Paralympic Games Are Over?

Posted: 28/08/2012 20:38

Sometimes the line between patriotism and nationalism can seem paper-thin. When I stood in the crowd at the Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool last month, the St George's flags and swastikas were clearly visible, yet the same crowd roared with approval when a Jamaican, Usain Bolt, won the 100m sprint final.

I'm not saying the crowd was racist - punk and new wave music has always had an uneasy relationship with the symbolism of race and nationality - but bands like The Clash intelligently integrated reggae and ska into their music, sticking two fingers up at those who assumed punk couldn't be English without being racist.

And one musician who knows about these issues more than most is Morrissey. I was at the Madness reunion concert in 1992 when Morrissey caused a storm of controversy by wrapping himself in the Union flag in front of a largely skinhead crowd. It was not a pretty sight. My other presiding memory of that event is being at the bottom of a human pyramid - I think there is still the sole of a Doctor Marten's boot printed on my shoulder.

Morrissey is an intelligent man and a great artist, but he is also belligerent, unfeeling, and says what he thinks without worrying if he is the only person in the nation with those thoughts. He is one of those artists who can be admired for their work, but you know inside that it must be almost impossible to ever be his friend.

Morrissey's recent rant about the overwhelmingly popular London Olympic games is in his typical style:

"I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism? The 'dazzling royals' have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. It is lethal to witness."

The man who sang that that the Queen is dead is unlikely to have fawned over the opening ceremony or Team GB gold medals in quite the same way as other viewers, but he has sorely misjudged the mood of the nation - a nation now anticipating more success in the Paralympics, which open today.

In the run up to the Olympic games, the media was largely hostile. The land to air missiles, the security guard fiasco, the money being spent - all were issues that endlessly tore at the games. Most commentators judged the whole event to be an expensive folly. There were just a few lonely voices before the games trying to remind people that this is going to be a great event for the UK - all too often Boris Johnson or Seb Coe sounded like lonely voices chirping 'on message' support for the event.

But that has all changed. Media and public sentiment changed once Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony reminded people that Britain really is great - there really is something to celebrate here. And the spectacular organisation, venues, and golden performance of Team GB have just added to the present sense of wonder. I have lost count of the people I have seen on Twitter confessing to turn from Olympic-haters to flag-waving Team GB supporters and the Paralympic games are surfing that wave of popularity with almost every event now sold out.

Can you just imagine what the September 10 Team GB victory parade is going to look like and how Britain as a nation feels revitalised and newly proud through sport?

Morrissey is calling for people to wake up and smell the coffee. But we all know the recession is still here and Europe still needs to sort out the Euro and Lords reform has collapsed because there are bigger fish to fry. The public know all these things and yet the Olympic and Paralympic games are offering a few short weeks of respite - the people don't want to wake up just now, the summer of sport isn't over yet.

 

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