Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Olympic Torch Relay


The Olympic Torch came through my town this morning.  I was out on the streets at 8:30am, along with a good two hundred other people, watching as the torch was taken along the street towards Conwy Castle.  I had no idea who the torch bearer was, so here is the BBC’s Live Feed explanation:

“The town is jam packed and people are hanging out of windows to cheer Sarah Thomas, 31, as she passes with the flame. Sarah is an academic and teacher but also finds time to compete in contests such as the Ironman UK Triathlon and Ultraman Canada Championships.

Sarah Thomas, local hero

“She was the first ever person from Wales to represent the UK in its 25 year history. She ran 84km, cycled 418k and swam 10k in aid of Dolen Cymru - a charity dedicated to creating life changing links in terms of education, health, governance and civil society.”

Well done Sarah Thomas, I say.  I’m glad a real sportsperson and civic champion carried the torch through my home town, rather than one of the ‘celebrities’ that have carried it in other places.  Having, say, Will.I.Am as the torch bearer has given it some worldwide publicity, but this is about Britain, about celebrating our sporting achievement, and honouring our everyday heroes.

The whole ‘event’ lasted only a short while – first the promotional buses came through, and Coca Cola gave away free bottles of pop – and then riders from the Metropolitan Police Force and North Wales Police – and then finally the torch arrived and Sarah Thomas began her walk along the streets swelled with revellers, towards the imposing edifice of Conwy Castle.  The whole thing was so well orchestrated, and the crowds were behind it all with enthusiasm.  Well done to the Torch Relay team for doing it all in style.

What has been good to see in this 70 day relay, as the torch traverses our great nation, is how communities have come together to support it.   You can gripe all you want about the costs – and they are exorbitant, and yes we probably can’t afford it – but as a moral boost for a flagging country, it’s certainly wonderful pageantry.  Allied with the Golden Jubilee celebrations happening next week in honour of The Queen, and then the Olympic Games themselves, it does seem that Britain is a very happening and exciting place right now.  We will not see another year like it.

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Amour [Love] / Dir. Michael Haneke


On a completely unrelated note, I want to comment briefly on Michael Haneke winning his second Palme d’Or with his new film ‘Amour [Love]’.  I admire Haneke’s work immensely – he is one of the most interesting and distinctive voices working in contemporary cinema – and I look forward to seeing this film on its release in this country.   The film is described on Wikipedia as: “focuse[d] on an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, who are retired music teachers with a daughter who lives abroad. One day Anne suffers a stroke which paralyses her on one side of the body.”  Haneke has taken the stories of two people whose stories would never normally be shown on screen – it is certainly uncommercial – and celebrated with what sounds like a moving, elegiac piece of work.  He’s come a long way since ‘Funny Games’ has Mr. Haneke.

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