a unique perspective on this crazy world

OK, maybe on Sesame Street the alphabet is a big deal.  Most of the time it is something we learn as children and never really pay attention to once we have it memorized.

In prior Olympics I had noted the alphabet a bit but most of the opening ceremonies had not held my attention sufficiently to pay too much attention – and I didn’t have a blog 🙂

Even with the blog I wouldn’t have paid a lot of attention if the show had not been so engaging it was hard to just watch casually so by the time the athletes appeared, I was watching.  It is THEIR show after all!

While not as entertaining as the volunteers mostly (!) directed by Danny Boyle, it was really supposed to be about them and it was fascinating to see the national parade.  CTV also did a great job of providing random facts for every country represented so one could learn a bit if one wished.

First, one got an entertaining dose of British history… and then lots of random facts about geography and history.   Education writ as entertainment – or vice-versa.  A great achievement in either direction.

I’m watching NBC as I type this.  I have been fooling around watching round two but some of the sequences were fascinating and this one was the last to broadcast so I got to see a few things three times.  I’ve already seen CTV’s take – so we will see what the Americans think of it all.

CTV did a great job of giving some context to all 204 countries.  It is actually a great test of your knowledge of geography – and history.  There were even a couple of countries I had never heard of!  Islands somewhere in the South Pacific.  Still, it makes one humble.

What I found more fascinating was the wild dots that get connected when you put countries in alphabetical order.  Canada gets sandwiched between Cambodia, Cameroon and China.  Quite the disparate group!

Our uniforms looked very functional but pretty dull compared to Cameroon 🙂  And we share the colour red with China.  Those small details that normally get missed 😉

Some of the details just confirmed what the world already knows.  I have no idea how well Italy does at the summer Olympics.  They definitely didn’t score many medals on snow or ice.  But at both they win a gold medal for style!  They looked fantastic!  Not a surprise to find out their uniforms were designed by Giorgio Armani.  And maybe even made in Italy…  (really, USA, you would have your uniforms made in CHINA and then gripe about American jobs being lost…)

And then there are the athletes with stories that make them bigger than their national uniform.  I am sure there will more stories told as the medals are handed out but so far Usain Bolt looks hard to beat for that unique combination of athleticism and philanthropy.

And the politics of the world are there.  If you are paying attention.  Or watching an intelligent broadcast (so far NBC looks like they prepped by chatting with other random Americans on the plane over.  Apparently the athletes are marching faster than normal (kudos, Danny 🙂 so reading the crib notes when you know nothing about the world is proving tricky…)

But the politics here are fascinating.  The Olympics are trying to be a showcase for world cooperation – and leave your prejudices at home.  To the credit of IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge, Brunei sent its first female athlete – and she is carrying the flag!  Even Saudi Arabia has sent women.

Sadly some Muslim women need to cover up so much religion may interfere with sport.  Come on, Islam, get with the 21st century.  Religion has never been very female friendly.  And hatred does not make the world a better place…

But that is the nice thing with the Olympics.  While it’s pretty tough in certain corners, politics is officially left off the playing field.  So Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria all showed up – without AK47s.  You do really have to feel for the athletes from some countries where just training amid sniper fire or being allowed to get on a plane to London is an Olympian feat in itself.

And then there are the interesting facts if you are really paying attention… the number of new countries that didn’t used to exist… the strong showing of new countries that used to be part of the Soviet block and its emphasis on developing athletes to prove its might against the evil capitalist empire… the Jordanian women gorgeous and scarfless yet obviously Arab…  Chinese Taipei, not Taiwan, as the rest of us know it…  Norway, likely the most gorgeous team with politicians to match…  Spain, the most entertaining – giving Italy a run for its money in style 🙂

But more impressive Qatar…  a tiny team.  Medal hopes low.  But a woman is carrying the flag.  Another woman without a headscarf is on the team.   Apparently the IOC pressured Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – who had never sent female athletes – to change their ways… and it worked!

The most interesting alphabetical juxtaposition has to be the USA followed by Vietnam… of course it should have been the USSR in the old days… you gotta love the alphabet!

For NBC, apparently this keeping track of the alphabet is sufficient commentary… Dudes, someone should tell you about Wikipedia and the concept of preparation!  But if your nation only has a fourth grade education, I guess they won’t notice… and will love how you take every country and only comment on how it might impact the AMERICAN team – or if that is not applicable, where you could find it on a world map…

Seriously, people???   Hong Kong and capitalism?  Iceland and some swimmer’s shakedown with Michael Phelps… oh, and India and Indonesia have a huge population.  That’s news?  Not to anyone who  knows ANYTHING about the world… I think you are supposed to telling us stuff we don’t already know…

Anyway, NBC does tons of commercials so I swapped back to CTV and caught the brilliant Arctic Monkeys for a second time.  I’ve never seen them live – even better than on CD.  The symbolic doves and the Arctic Monkeys covering the Beatles (so much better than Sir Paul!)  WOW!

Salt Lake never had ANYTHING like this, Mitt 🙂   I guess that’s partly why the American commentators sound so gauche.  I know Americans think they are cooler.  And they are good at marketing – you can’t take that away.  But the Brits just have that je ne sais quoi.

London is the only city to host the Olympics three times.  It has done it in times of trouble.  The 1948 games far more poignant than 2012.  But one has to focus on the positives I think.  It is easy to diss the Olympics.  And the commercialisation of sport in general.

But you don’t have to pay attention to the advertising (this post has taken far longer cause I switch channels every time advertising comes on!)  And the spirit of the Olympics is the kind of world we should all strive for.

I really like how far Danny Boyle pushed people’s imaginations.  Now we just need to harness that imagination and use it for the greatest good.  That is far more challenging.  But Great Britain is an inspiring place.  Let us hope that what everyone – athletes and spectators – takes away is the inspiration.  And brings home something far more important than medals – a spirit of tolerance, striving for excellence and competition within the spirit of sportsmanship – all the ideals of the games before you could be arrested for wearing a Pepsi (as opposed to Coca Cola) T-shirt…

Let’s bring those ideals back.  And celebrate the real “cool Britainnia”…  the nation that promoted concepts like honour, fair play and literacy as though they were cards we could all play… and win J

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