Thursday, August 02

Olympic medal for taking the piss: 1. GB. 2. CZ.


Up until 22.00 on Friday evening, I had been somewhat sceptical about how London 2012 would turn out, along with much of the British nation. That all changed as I watched enthralled and frequently tearfully as Danny Boyle's opening ceremony unfolded. It seems to many people that he did the impossible and captured what Britain and the British are, and how we want our Olympics to be. Of course there was tradition, but the usual symbols were mixed in with other things that we are proud of, but which foreigners might not give thought to; our National Health Service, the positive contribution of immigrants over the years, the fact that the inventor of the Web is British and that if there is one thing we still do well, it's modern music. He also captured the specific British sense of humour, which works on the basis that nothing and nobody is too big to be an object of fun.

It reminded me how much Brits and Czechs have in common, including a similar sense of humour. So the Czech athletes came out in nice uniforms, completed by Wellington boots. Of course, because our weather is likely to be foul. And then we have David Cerny's London Bus which he has installed outside the Czech House. Mr Cerny has already demonstrated that he has an excellent understanding of us, with an empty space as the British contribution to Europe in Entropa. Now he has given us a big red bus,  doing exercises. It is doing them rather slowly and making some rather funny noises. I get the message:  We have our tradition, and people love that about Britain, but when it comes to exercise, it's true that the average Brit is now a bit overweight and does not do nearly enough. Yes, we know. But it is very funny and affectionate, and I will recommend it to all my British friends.

There is no chance of the USA challenging our two countries in the Olympic piss-take competition.  Mitt Romney, a man who could possibly be the next US president arrived in London and made an astonishingly inept speech in which he questioned whether we had prepared adequately for the Olympics, and worried about queues at border points, and our security arrangements. Up to that point many of us had worried about the same thing, but when we heard this from Romney, the whole country united in fury and from that point on we were right behind the Olympics. This shows another similarity between Brits and Czechs. We often notice that Czechs are very self-critical, however if a foreigner voices the same criticisms, Czechs tend to unite and turn on the foreigner. We did exactly the same last week. With just a couple of sentences, Mitt Romney managed to unite the country, and allow our Prime Minister to deliver a withering response which impressed even his opponents.

So next week I head off to London. Suddenly I can hear the pride and excitement in the voices of my family back home as they prepare to be hosts. Meanwhile my brother-in-law, who has never been to Britain prepares for the epic journey there on his motor-bike. As we plan this together I realise that all round the world hundreds and thousands of people have made similar plans, and the city of my birth holds the attention of the whole world. That's a great feeling. Whether the London Olympics brings a lasting benefit to justify the huge costs, remains to be seen, but that's not a question for today. Next week I will be a host, and some of you may be there as guests. And if you find some things to laugh at, you'll find we are probably laughing with you.

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