Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Olympics - a golden signpost to change

My adorable nephew shows his colours

I was at the office of a Sunday newspaper yesterday, putting in my occasional appearance as a subeditor when something odd happened. 

We had, as most papers do today, several spreads about the Olympics - about the closing festival high jinks, about glory and courage. So far so uplifting and positive. So unusual for news.

But the paper I was at had a story to go with the other Olympic stuff that wasn't so glowing. It was a whinge and a moan about something not, in one person's opinion, so wonderful. Much, much more typical newspaper fodder. But it felt all wrong as I was subbing it, negativity soaked out of the computer. Bleurgh. 

Minutes later, the editor read the story and felt the same thing. "It's too negative. Doesn't sit with the rest of the stuff. Let's change it," he said, and the ill-tempered story bit the dust. 

Not so remarkable perhaps, until you consider that almost every story has some degree of conflict in it. Things going right isn't generally of interest... until now. News usually Hoovers up unhappiness and misadventure to spit out on its front page. Don't be judgemental, it's just how it is. If you don't believe me, ask yourself why you are interested in the harrowing saga of Tia Sharp. 

You'd normally see that any story, no matter how many dead is on the front pages for four days at the most. Not so the Olympics, interest is growing. This feels very different. Perhaps it's signalling a change inside the invisible mesh that connects us all into the people of a nation. 

Just as I was thinking about writing this, I spotted that Carol Ann Duffy had said the same thing, but better in a poem written for the Daily Mirror.

Translating the British, 2012

A summer of rain, then a gap in the clouds
and The Queen jumped from the sky
to the cheering crowds.
We speak Shakespeare here,
a hundred tongues, one-voiced; the moon bronze or silver,
sun gold, from Cardiff to Edinburgh
by way of London Town,
on the Giant's Causeway;
we say we want to be who we truly are,
now, we roar it. Welcome to us.
We've had our pockets picked,
the soft, white hands of bankers,
bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;
we want it back.
We are Mo Farah lifting the 10,000 metres gold.
We want new running-tracks in his name.
For Jessica Ennis, the same; for the Brownlee brothers,
Rutherford, Ohuruogu, Whitlock, Tweddle,
for every medal earned,
we want school playing fields returned.
Enough of the soundbite abstract nouns,
austerity, policy, legacy, of tightening metaphorical belts;
we got on our real bikes,
for we are Bradley Wiggins,
side-burned, Mod, god;
we are Sir Chris Hoy,
Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton, Kenny, Hindes,
Clancy, Burke, Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas,
Olympian names.
We want more cycle lanes.
Or we saddled our steed,
or we paddled our own canoe,
or we rowed in an eight or a four or a two;
our names, Glover and Stanning; Baillie and Stott;
Adlington, Ainslie, Wilson, Murray,
Valegro (Dujardin's horse).
We saw what we did. We are Nicola Adams and Jade Jones,
bring on the fighting kids.
We sense new weather.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I do hope you're right. For two weeks, the moaners and whingers have mostly been silenced, the cynics have been won round. It's a while now since I stopped listening to the news, or the early morning Radio4 programmes with the interviewers and their confrontational style, or indeed anyone who seems to be haranguing me or shouting at me over the airwaves. I'm proper fed up with the 'glass half empty' mentality - indeed I find it deeply depressing. I've been on the planet long enough now to have seen most trends come round for the second or third time (witness my wardrobe!!) and guess what! in schools these days they are teaching reading pretty much as I was taught over 60 years ago. So I now know, highs are followed by lows are followed by highs and so on, in pretty much every aspect of life. So I say, dig in and work though the lows, enjoy the highs, and and be kind to each other!!!! You might even enjoy it! Mxx


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