Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

London Olympics: Not Just about Sport

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th January, 2012

I’ve have always had zero interest in sport, in fact a minus interest. At school I was able to get out of football and rugby in winter because I am so short-sighted, and in summer acute hayfever kept me off the cricket pitch. Instead I spent many a happy afternoon slumped in one of the less uncomfortable chairs in the school library, devouring English and French novels, history, biography and above all geography, especially atlases. The world and its countries were a never ending source of fascination to me and remain so to this day. And that is partly why I can raise a tiny bit of enthusiasm for the London Olympics, which will be taking place not so very far from my home in East London this summer. Not for the events themselves, of course, about which I don’t care two hoots. I would never have dreamt of applying for any of those tickets that people have been salivating and fighting over and I don’t have a television with which to waste countless hours watching the Games either. No, it’s the 205 competing nations at the Olympics and Paralympics which intrigue me — 12 more than there are members of the United Nations! — and I look forward to our city being thronged with even more exotic people than usual. But if truth be told, the main reason I am happy the Olympics are coming to town is because of the parallel Cultural Olympiad. When the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the IOC he made sure that each host city and nation would use the opportunity to draw parallels in excellence and achievement in the Arts as well as in sport, and that the events should be an occasion for attracting global artistic talent. That the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is already doing in spades. Highlights this month include the opening of David Hockney’s ‘The Bigger Picture’ at the Royal Academy and this summer there will be the World Shakespeare Festival taking place in venues all over the country, during which all 37 of the bard’s plays will be performed — in 37 different languages! Over a thousand events in all are scheduled, and unlike the Games themselves, many of these cultural events will be free, including a spectacular River of Music in July, with pop and world music concerts held on six giant stages at iconic locations along the River Thames.

Link: www.london2012.com/cultural-olympiad

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