The Place of the Arts in the Olympics

The Olympics are the world’s greatest showcase for sport, this is without contention. Hundreds of nations, thousands of contestants and billions of pounds making it the largest event of it’s and indeed any kind, on a global scale. With the financial climate the UK is currently under, this financial obligation was not something that was overlooked by the millions of Londoners to whom funding the games would fall to. Being more inclined to arts than sports myself I, along with many others seriously wondered how this scale of budget and attention could be justified when we have suffered such brutal cuts to arts funding in the last couple of years.

Now the Olympics are over and we can reflect and I think many of those criticisms have been silenced by what an astonishing two weeks we have had. Our Olympics has, in its own unique way, shown the world we are not just a nation of incredible sporting achievement but one of artistic prowess too. The opening and closing ceremonies showcased theatre, music, dance, literature, television and film from centuries ago right up until the present day. From Shakespeare, Milton and Blake through to J.M. Barry and J.K. Rowling; there was strong literary and artistic inspiration to be found in their words. Inspiration for the imagination, perhaps best realised in the awe-inspiring sights and sounds. From the epic living-history lesson that formed the opening sequence through the musical and digital ages and more low-key heart-felt and passionate memoriam dance, culminating in the re-creation of hustling and bustling, multi-cultural, twenty-first century London at the close. Each section was distinct, but yet encapsulated the heart, spirit and creativity of our city and nation in a way sport alone cannot define.

Sport was partnered at these games with the arts, not in contention of it. Sport itself is a form of performance, and is more closely linked to theatre and other arts than people may consciously realise. It is my belief that the Olympics will actually help improve arts participation as well as sports, as large events such as these increase our appetites for performance, and make us more likely to get out and get involved. Record numbers of people flocked to Hyde Park, Victoria park and many other destinations to experience the Olympics because to watch with other people, to have a shared experience is something that we are once again, becoming increasingly drawn to. These kinds of experiences are of course readily available in sports and performancee venues, and with the Olympic spotlight highlighting them to millions of viewers, I hope we find more people are being drawn away from a night on the sofa.

The spectacular sporting moments and achievements will of course linger in the mind, for a long time but I believe the flavor of the games was offered by the arts. They are what has made 2012 unique, because whilst the 1500 will be run for many years to come, no other opening and closing ceremonies will ever be the same, and the high emotion and sense of wonder experienced there, never repeated in quite the same way. This is supported by the stats. on BBC iplayer, which show more people have watched the ceremonies than any other event during the Olympics, they have, in a way, defined it. Sport is what brought everyone together, and the arts were there to make sure we remembered it.

My future vision is that the arts will spread through the Olympics, and come to have an even greater role. One of the Games’ only failings as I see it, was the deflation the parts of London who did not play host to the Games and lost out on their share of Olympic spirit. I feel they could have been better incorporated with arts involvement. Looking to Rio 2016, the teaser we got from them last night highlighted the importance in their culture of the carnival; of music, dance and performance, in which everyone is included. I see no reason why this should this be kept to the stadium, and to just two nights of the games! My vision is that it will spread beyond the stadium walls, that there will be dancing and jubilation throughout the Olympic park, throughout the city of Rio, the country of Brazil and throughout the world.

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