Opening ceremony: will it reflect Britain?

The segment devoted to London in the closing ceremony of the 2008 Peking Games presented a gritty, urban view of the city – complete with hoodies and graffiti. But informed reports on the opening ceremony for London 2012 suggest it will present a very different view of Britain to the world.

Among the elements rumoured to be included are live animals (70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and three sheep dogs), real grass and a plough, a game of cricket and fake clouds that will rain on performers.

Dr Peter Martin, who chairs the Society’s Division of Counselling Psychology, said: “This may be very canny of the designer, magnifying a view of Britain which may exist as a stereotype in the minds of the many thousands of overseas visitors who are pouring in to see the Games. This vision will perhaps act as some kind of second-hand icon.

“But a true icon would be a window not to a forgotten dream, but to a deepened sense of a reality. In truth the making of rural Britain is the  results of heavy labour, constant change and a hard fight against encroaching built landscapes. Perhaps the surrounding of Newham will stop those who might be misled into too much sentimentality about this country of ours?

“There is a danger of trying to persuade on the basis of a rather clunky myth of UK. On the other hand, as the July edition of The Psychologist pointed out, we are all competitive people. Perhaps we need to be sophisticated when we compete. To have tried to outdo Athens would have failed. Better perhaps to try to do the best by doing something different and more homely – hence a non-spectacular approach this year.

“What one could really have wished for however was an event arising from a deeper understanding of the British psyche. At times of danger we appear to pull through one way or another. This is not because we are really at heart the cast of the Vicar of Dibley, but because we have learned something about survival. Perhaps that would be a better vision to share with our guests in a troubled and sometimes unstable global village?”

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