Inspiring a generation?

Long ago, when television sets were housed in wooden cabinets and you had to warm them up before viewing, programming for the end of the day came to an end with a certain restrained dignity. The national anthem would play, and then the picture would fade away to a small white dot in the centre of the screen, and quietly disappear. Last night’s bizarre and self-indulgent closing ceremony left me yearning for the old white dot – even though I am too young to remember it properly!

The past two weeks have brought moments of sheer inspiration. Audiences, both live and via television, have witnessed the fittest men and women in the world pushing the human body to the edge of its capabilities in pursuit of sporting excellence. At times the agony of competitors, whether winning or losing, has been almost too much to watch. Every medal won represents years of training, endurance and sheer determination.

Maybe that is why it seemed a little tawdry to see those medals being waved like light sticks at a beach party during the closing ceremony last night. Not only that, but a beach party of yesteryear, surely? Some of the ‘vintage’ talent wheeled out last night would have been better resting on its laurels than dusting them off, setting them at a jaunty angle, and trying to recapture all their yesterdays. Missed keys, wobbly voices, and ‘divas’ struggling to maintain their balance on top of taxis are proof, perhaps, that there comes a time when the stage should be ceded to newer talent.

Where was the artistic courage we saw in having the Olympic flame lit by new talent of whom we had never heard? That sole gesture symbolized so much of the aspiration to ‘inspire a generation’, but it seemed lost in last night’s extravaganza. Maybe Rio will pick it up again…

Inspired by the sporting excellence, disappointed by the closing ceremony, and thankful for an Olympic Games which made its host city proud, I leave you with four minutes of vintage British humour:


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