I never thought I’d write anything at all in praise of beach volleyball. But the very idea of holding that Ur-beach-bum event in the stuffily hallowed sanctum of London’s Horse Guards’ Parade, just round the corner from Bucky Palace, was terrific.
Such deliciously nutty brilliance was totally lost, of course, on the commentators at NBC, the network currently holding the whole of the United States hostage to its primitive Flag-Waving-for-Idiots take on the Olympics. Samuel Johnson, please return from the grave: patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels indeed.
NBC’s so-called newscasters only seem aware that there might be one or two non-American athletes in London when one of them threatens to deprive an American of gold. And of course they were totally stymied by the opening ceremony. They’d been expecting all the usual pomp and circumstance. They were well primed on all the stock kitsch images of Englishness. But kids on giant hospital beds? Dozens of Mary Poppinses? Suffragettes? Dark Satanic mills? “William who…? Blake? A poet?”
The London Olympics has slyly subverted the Chinese big-state staging of 2008 (an uncanny reminder of the 1936 Berlin Olympics). From the little I’ve seen (I’d have seen more except that would only lead to my posting madly to #NBCfail on Twitter), there’s a lovely tongue-in-cheekness to it all. And a real celebration not of nationalism, but of athleticism, no matter who wins.
No wonder those couch potatoes at NBC don’t get it.