Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Where Was Robbie Burns?

Friday night was Opening Night. Yes, I did watch it, or as much of it as my senses could handle. It was a bewildering spectacle which must have been incomprehensible to viewers from abroad. One in which Scotland was acknowledged in a two minute image of children singing in the surroundings of Edinburgh Castle and Emeli Sande's distinctive rendering of 'Abide With Me'.

The event was described as showing 'the things we love about Britain' - the Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution, the NHS, pop music, children's literature and genius engineers.

The  show - because it wasn't a ceremony - should have been billed as 'the things we love about England' because none of Scotland's contributions to the world featured. The Industrial Revolution wouldn't have been possible without the likes of Joseph Black, (born in France to an Irish father and Scottish mother) and the Hamilton-born William Cullen.  Alexander Fleming's discovery, which has saved billions of lives since the 1940s, would have brought a little gravitas to the disco-styled (collapsing) English NHS section.

Midway through the four hour London 2012 opening ceremony, up popped Tim Berners Lee who tweeted 'This is for everyone' from the centre of the stadium and the words appeared in huge letters across the seating screens. No mention was made of Alexander Graham Bell's invention, without which Mr Berners Lee's technology wouldn't exist.

Most people now know who Berners Lee is and what he did that was so exceptional because nowadays we accept his invention as the 'norm'.  What many don't realise is that Berners Lee refused to close and control the World Wide Web he created, in marked contrast to the political economy of the Olympics.

However, Thomas Heatherwick's beautiful Olympic cauldron was a visual delight and would have fascinated the Scot Thomas Telford.

Danny Boyle could also have mentioned the French-born Scot William Laurie Dickson who, without his invention and that of John Logie Baird's, few of us would have witnessed the occasion.

In all fairness Mr Boyle is an Englishman and he managed to pull off an acceptable image of England past and present.

In 2014 Scotland has a chance to showcase itself at the Commonwealth Games. We shouldn't miss the opportunity to include reference to the many who have given their skills - and lives - to make our country the place it is today. That includes Robbie Burns.


Oldrightie said...

I'm slowly coming round to Scottish independence, Subrosa. However the "show" wasn't even English. First and foremost it was "multi-cultural" with many coloured folk gaily immersed in feudal garb and ways. If that was merrye olde England, I missed something in my history lessons!

We're all European now and Scotland will, indeed is already, UKM!


Hamish said...

I think "A man's a man .." would have been a more approrpiate choice than " Abide with me".
However I hope Glasgow Twenty Fourteen will go for a minimalist approach. Just introduce the teams and welcome the visitors and get on with the games.
And if Alex Salmond has to parachute into the arena, let's refuse to pay for a stunt double.

JRB said...

Oh God ..... do you mean there will be more over-hyped; over-commercialised; over-exposed; over-reported; over-televised; over-the-top sport ..... in two years time ..... and worse ..... in Scotland .....Oh God.

Demetrius said...

What pray, about John Logie Baird, without whom nobody would have been watching anything? Well, perhaps. We did not watch, it went on too late and Classic FM had a decent programme. As I have never watched any Olympic opening ceremony this was not unusual. Possibly, Robbie Burns was well out of it, somehow linking him to Mr. Bean and parachuted corgi's would do him no favours.

RMcGeddon said...

Come on this is Scotland. The BBC might mention the Glasgow Games at the end of the news as ...'and finally'.
I quite enjoyed the Olympics opening ceremony although I don't think it strenghened the case for the Union ( as said by wee doogie alexnder etc).
It was more of a nostalgic look at how great we had been. But it's all gone now. Owned by foreigners and run from Brussels.

Allan said...


Sorry, but overall I thought it was British, and pulled of the surprising (but welcolme) trick of never falling into Anglocentricity. A lot of the ceremony was about shared experiences rather than picking a thing that is explicitly Scottish, English, etc. I suppose Bell, Flemming and Baird's exclusion was rough, but NBC would probably have cut it from their coverage anyway (like they did with the Emile Sande section).


Abide With Me was sung at the part that was about remembering those who are no longer here, specifically those who lost their lives on 7 July 2005, how exactly does "A Mans A Man..." fit into that theme exactly? (and yes, i am rather bemused at a funeral song being the official hymn of Wembley sung at FA Cup Finals & RL Challenge Cup Finals)

Barbarian of the North said...

God help us in 2014. You can guarantee Salmond will ensure it is turned into a full blooded political statement. The cybernats - sorry, ardent nationalists - will be creaming themselves.

Sport should never be politicised, but unfortunately it is.

If the Commonwealth Games in 2014 are turned into some sort of advert for Scottish independence, then that will be a disgrace. But no doubt Ms McAlpine is already sharpening her pencils in anticipation.

subrosa said...

I hope you support English independence in time too OR. :)

subrosa said...

Annie Laurie would have been better Hamish. :)

Jings, I do hope in 2014 we don't have this palavar of an 'opening ceremony'. All we need is for some bairn who does well at sport to stand up and say the Games are open. Nae fireworks. Think of AWG. Strangely none of the AWG bunch has complained about them...

subrosa said...

Keep praying JRB, keep praying, but don't wear your hands down to the bone by wringing them. It'll happen regardless of our wishes.

subrosa said...

Demetrius, John Logie Baird - although given no credit - relayed the first TV pictures.

Of course many watched the pantomime on other items.

You're right of course - as usual.

subrosa said...

Hmm Allan, I saw little credit given to Scottish contributions towards Anglocentricity. No mention of the oil money either. :)

subrosa said...

I consider myself a nationalist Barbarian but I think I understand what you mean.

Entirely agree with your last paragraph. I'd be disgusted. What is needed is total concentration on the athletes. Oh and they should behave in a manner fitting to their position and not as if they're on a Friday night out in town.

Brian said...


Actually, from an English point of view there was a distinct lack of English contributions as well: no Trevithick, Stephenson, Arkwright, Wedgewood, Boulton, Whittle etc, etc... Besides, most things have been invented at least twice - imagine the Yanks boycotting the Games if Danny Boyle had claimed Joesph Swan had invented the lightbulb and not Edison!
The whole thing was an audiovisual froth that would appeal to the widest (and by definition, shallowest) possible audience. it was a tone poem for the eyes and ears that oughtn't be analysed to audit the exact proportions of artists, scientists, Welsh and Northern Irish contributions to the event. If one starts doing that then one soon finds onself in the same gutter as the people who claim there weren't any blacks around in the industrial revolution, so why were they in the pageant in stovepipe hats?
I look forward to seeing the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony and trust it will provide a positive, inclusive view of Scottishness and the Scottish diaspora who ran the Empire instead of having a song celebrating a battle seven hundred years ago and not trying to make peace - why not Scotland the Brave instead?
Perhaps you could post about the separateness of the Scottish and Eglish and Welsh NHS since inception, ie the 1936 Cathcart Report and the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947.

subrosa said...

Very true Brian, there was a lack of English contributions, but my point was that 99% of it was English-based.

For me, visually, it was totally overloaded with activity and I had no time for my senses to concentrate upon anything.

Let's hope lessons have been learned for the Commonwealth Games.

That's an idea. If you could email me some links I'd be delighted.

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