The Happy and Glorious Games: "Britain, we did it right!"

Medal Winners of Team GB

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The London 2012 Olympics has come at just the right time in our national history and has added another happy and glorious chapter into our Islands' Story, says Alistair McConnachie. Posted 23 August 2012.

Never before, in its sporting history, has Britain been showcased to the world so positively and never before has it risen to an occasion so well, with architectural wonder new and old, with human ingenuity and glamour, with medal winning success from all four corners of the United Kingdom, with organisational endeavour and efficiency that belied the doubters, and with just plain coolness.

Indeed, never before, has it been so cool to be British!

The outdoor events were set in stunning scenery which showcased London to an entranced world. The athletes were inspiring, intelligent, eloquent, committed, passionate people. We felt for Team GB poster girl, Jessica Ennis, who had the weight of the nation on her shoulders, and were so relieved and happy for her when she delivered Gold so coolly and calmly and intelligently on Super Saturday.

We were stunned by new stadia, built to time and budget. We witnessed astonishing Opening and Closing Ceremonies whose imagination and precision took the breath away. We were awed by the Union Jack stage at the Closing Ceremony. We marvelled at the visual wonder of the expertly rendered modern technology which lit up the Olympic Stadium to brilliant effect.

In that regard, check out this video to see part of the most spectacular lighting system which has ever been used in Britain, coordinated by Patrick Woodroffe and his team - including pyrotechnics and excellent camera work - at the Closing Ceremony. (The link below can only be watched on YouTube since embedding on external sites has been forbidden - click link top left.)

The events themselves were deliciously flavoured with all sorts of little touches of inspiration and creativity. From the build-up and Torch Ceremony throughout the British Isles, to the forged Olympic Rings, to the Queen and James Bond, to the hydraulic, metal masterpiece which was the Olympic Flame and its Petals - designed by Thomas Heatherwick - to the unique Lighting Ceremony, to the Games themselves and the remote-controlled mini-Minis which collected discuses, hammers and javelins, to so much else. It was all involving, inspired and inspiring, clever, admirable, and Great fun to watch. 1

When a colleague and I went to see the quarter-final France v Sweden Women's Football game at Hampden in Glasgow on 3-8-12, attended by thousands, there was a piece of comic street theatre in the road leading up to the stadium, with actors playing and spectating a 1940s team against a 1970s team. Street Theatre, outside Hampden Park 3-8-12 (pic copyright Alistair McConnachie) All great stuff, all very well done, with police and volunteers doing a great job in a really happy and excited atmosphere - even the transport to the venue had been arranged via free rail and bus.

The Olympics has shown us that we belong to a good country, not only at winning medals but at organising events on a massive scale. We already suspected that we British were good at that - but the Olympics was our big test, and we past it swimmingly!

As Lord Coe said at the Closing Ceremony, "We know more now, as individuals, and as a nation, just what we are capable of, and that knowledge will drive us on...When our time came, Britain, we did it right!" And as the International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, proclaimed so wonderfully, the Games were indeed, "happy and glorious". Thank you, Sirs!

In short, it was a roaring success. And it made us feel good to be part of a country which can present itself to the world in this positive and winning way.

No doubt there were people watching who heard a voice within them saying they would be excluding themselves from an immense identity which is genuinely awesome if they voted to split from all this.

Of course, there were others, the harder-edged ScotNats, who just couldn't get into it at all. Their hearts were just not there. They were reduced to making snide, irrelevant and inane comments from the sidelines - indeed not even from the sidelines, but rather from what appeared to be outer space - certainly another planet!

For example, someone on Facebook made a picture which claimed that the Closing Ceremony was funded by "Scottish Oil" - seriously! Someone had a letter published in The Herald claiming that London 2012 was "bread and circuses" which was helping to provide cover for "the bankers". We kid you not.

Some of the negativity of these people would put Private Frazer to shame.

Let's address the 4 main objections we heard from the naysayers:

1. "If you say Scotland is better in Team GB, then it would be even better in a Team Europe"
The bigger the talent pool, of course, the more talent is available. That is a good argument for Team GB. However, we don't take that logic further than these Islands' shores, because we consider England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be family in a way in which countries outside the UK are not.

The logic of a Team Europe for the Olympics would only apply if you considered England to be a foreign country in the way that France or Germany are foreign countries. It would only apply if you considered that teaming up with England is just like teaming up with France or Germany. That is, the logic only applies if you consider the rest of the UK to be foreign countries.

It is very revealing that some Nats take the logic to that level. They really do believe that England is a foreign country! We saw a letter in The Herald (6-8-12) claiming seriously that England is "a foreign country".

2. "If Scotland had its own Team we could do well in the medals table too"
The success or otherwise of a separate Scottish team cannot be extrapolated from the good Olympic results for the Scottish athletes, anymore than it can be extrapolated from the good results for the Yorkshire athletes, since their successes depended upon their complete integration into a UK-funded and facilitated Team.

Nevertheless, Scotland could field its "own team" if it were separated. We wouldn't come anywhere near top of the medals table, but would probably do reasonably well as far as medals per head of the population is concerned. Some people want that. We don't.

We want to demonstrate that when we work together, Britain is greater than the sum of its parts. We want 60 million people cheering our Scottish athletes, not just 5 million. And we want to cheer on the rest of the athletes from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, not just the athletes from Scotland. We know that "the people of these Isles can produce astonishing results together." 2

3. "The media always call Scottish athletes Scottish when they lose and British when they win"
Like the non-existent "anti-Scottish verse in the National Anthem", this is a piece of fruitcake that some of the more nutty Nats repeat ad nauseum, usually when they've nothing really to say (which is often). It is simply not true, and never happens.

They appear to operate on the principle that if they repeat nonsense often enough - you know, stuff which is not actually real, and doesn't actually happen in reality - then it will become the received truth.

Scotland on Sunday put it well:

Few things are more tiresome than the claim, much enjoyed by the chippier brand of Scot, that Murray is British when winning but Scottish any time he is defeated. This is a joyless, whining brand of parochialism that, consciously or not, seeks the pleasure of being slighted so that pompous, thin-spirited umbrage may be taken. It is juvenile and, worse still, based on a myth for, actually, few, if any, English commentators make any such distinction. 3

4. "It cost 9 billion which should have been spent on...[insert favourite cause here]"
Complaining about "the cost" is so lame. If the London Olympics did indeed cost "9 billion", then Great! It is 9 billion very well spent!

That's 9 billion pounds which went into the economy! 9 billion pounds which went into people's pockets. 9 billion which circulated in the economy for the benefit of all. 9 billion which put a smile on so many faces, and which was the Greatest advertisement for Britain for years!

Complaining about the quote/unquote "cost", is only something done by people who are ideologically opposed to the spectacle, or people who basically don't understand how the economy works in the first place.

This is one of the best comments we've ever read about "the cost" of things (from back in 2008):

During the Olympics, I have been continually reminded of those long-gone dinner conversations. How outrageous that the Government plans to blow £10 billion on the London Games when that money is so desperately needed for [insert worthy cause here]. Last week one columnist wanted it diverted to spelling lessons.

Let's agree that spelling is more important than Olympic sport. It doesn't follow that all the money spent on the Olympics should be spent on spelling. Because spelling is not the only thing more important than sport. So is biochemistry. It should get some of that £10 billion too. Farming should also get some; it, too, is more important than sport. And sculpture...You can see where this is going...No one has the knowledge required to assess everything's importance. To suppose that you do, and that the world would be improved if money were spent only according to your rating, shows hubris of biblical proportions...Politicians don't spend our money wrongly because they fail to identify the correct "importance ranking". There is no such thing, only how important things are to individuals. 4

Anyway, we think this song at the Closing Ceremony put some of that into a lighter perspective.

Here is Another Thing of which we have been Reminded recently:

Britain is still a Great Nation which Serves the World
The naysayers will say that Britain's "greatness" is past. I've been hearing this rubbish my entire life. The anti-British love that narrative. But I've never understood it, because it doesn't reflect the reality that I see. I've never lived in a situation where Britain has not been one of the foremost countries in the world.

Yes, we gave up an Empire, but the World changed and we still remained Up There - or rather, Up Here.

Britain is still one of the foremost nations in the world, by any objective value. The good news is that this is not going to change any time soon. Britain is one of the top 7 most important nations in the world (Others: USA, China, Russia, India, Germany, France). 5

We are still a Great Nation. We have never really stopped being a Great Nation. Yes, there is a lot wrong with Britain, things which need inspired leadership to fix. Yes, there are things which Britain is doing on the world stage which are wrong. But we don't fix those things by breaking up Britain. We don't throw the British baby out with the British bathwater. We fix those things by helping and encouraging our leaders to lead morally and with wisdom.

Looking at the extremely well conceived, dramatic and perfectly executed Opening Ceremony, the wonderful new venues built to time and budget, the lovely outdoor locations showcasing the uniqueness of London, the friendly and enthusiastic volunteers, the helpful and protective Armed Services, the exertions of the athletes and their medals, the happy faces, the seas of Union Jacks, the crowds singing the National Anthem, the Closing Ceremony with its massive Union Jack stage, the questions are:

Who would not want to be part of all this? Who, on earth would want to throw all this away?

The Story of Britain is the story of a Nation which is Greater than the sum of its parts. A wonderful story which has the ability to inspire, encourage, excite, and fill us with enthusiasm for all the good we can achieve when we work together. Scotland's Story is bound intimately within its pages.

London 2012 has now written its chapter into that happy and glorious Story of Britain.

It is hard to understand those who want to rip Scotland's Story out of this bigger Story, who want to tear out Scotland's part in it all.

Britain has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of promoting human good things. Scotland is part of this. Out of Britain, to the far corners of the world, has gone and continues to go, the great civilising ideas and institutions and works of man.

Britain has led the world in so many human good things that it is impossible to understand where the anti-British people get off.

For example, as the Paralympics begin on 29 August, we can remember that it is Britain which has led the world in disability awareness and consequent legislation. We practically invented the concept. It began with the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 which were played by disabled veterans of WW2, then came the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970). 6

Britain, working together, using its Greatness to serve humanity. It's a compelling vision for our future.

London 2012 demonstrated that there is nothing that need stop us.

1. The British Mini (albeit now owned by BMW) is a modern success story with the factory in Cowley producing 285,060 cars last year alone. [See Ian Birrell, "A roaring British success", The Scottish Daily Mail, 28 July 2012, pp.18-19.]

2. Alice Thomson, "Team GB is greater than the sum of its parts. The people of these isles can produce astonishing results together. Take note, Mr Salmond", The Times, 8-8-12, p. 20.

3. Editorial, "True Scot and great Briton", Scotland on Sunday, 8-7-12, p.13,

4. James Whyte, "Nobody knows the importance of everything", The Times, 21-8-08, p.26.

5. Charles Moore, "We should use these Games to pinpoint where our genius lies", The Daily Telegraph, 11-8-12, p.22,

6. Brian Wilson has written: "The Prime Minister noted how appropriate it is for our country to be hosting the Paralympics since - as well as being home to the Stoke Mandeville movement - 'Britain has led the world on disability rights legislation'. It is a proud claim which will never be gainsaid, for its truth is literal rather than mere assertion." [See Brian Wilson, "Championing equal, but different", The Scotsman, 15-8-12, p. 23,

Closing Ceremony London 2012, 12-8-12

The flag flies over the world to keep alive the hope of men that the days of war and strife will pass and nations will live together as good neighbours.

It flies for the government of the people for the people by the people.

It flies for liberty for all who are able to use it and will not abuse it, and for guiding all others along the road that leads to it.

It flies (whatever the difficulties of these days may be) for the Open Door, a fair field and equal rights for all nations.

It flies for the gospel that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and that men shall not be slaves.

It flies for humanity in all things, for Justice and Mercy, for the stopping of cruelty, for kindness to animals, for the love of little children.

It flies for the honour of the spoken and the written word throughout the world.

It flies for throwing open as wide as can be the field of human knowledge, and spreading wide the field of human happiness.

It flies for letting Truth be free as life itself and for the toleration of every man's faith and every man's opinion.

It flies for the unselfish pursuit of the good of all mankind.

It flies for the peace of all the world, which no nation ever longed for more.

All this is woven in the flag that flies at the four quarters of the globe, on every sea and on every wind. From these islands to the remotest corners of the earth this spirit has gone out, and nothing has been able to destroy it.

It has gone into strange lands, it has been alone in the wilderness, it has been in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; but it has found its way and won.

Arthur Mee, Arthur Mee's Book of The Flag, Island and Empire,
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd, 1941), pp. 70-71,
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