Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘London2012’

The Olympics Closing Ceremony

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th August, 2012

I was so impressed with Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony to the London2012 Olympics that I thought I must watch the Closing Ceremony as well, though alas it did not live up to expectations. I know it was intended to be of a different nature — more of an after-party than a perfomance — and it did look as though most of the Olympians present were enjoying it. But I thought it was rather poorly constructed and there was an awful lot of aimless drivng around by vehicles of all shapes and sizes, the early ones for some inexplicable reason wrapped in newsprint. I thought having an actor impersonate Winston Churchill reading Shakespeare lines that had already featurred in the Opening Ceremony, this time from the opened top of Big Ben, was just plain silly. The best moment came with some, though not all, of the musical acts. The film of John Lennon singing ‘Imgaine’ (supplied by Yoko Ono, I believe) was genuinely moving and it was fun to have a resurrected Freddie Mercury leading a singalong. The Annie Lennox set was cool and Eric Idle was a treat in an example of British bonkers at its best; The Who were in better shape than one might have imagined. But all in all, I felt the evening was something of an anticlimax. But that doesn’t detract from the brilliance of the Games as a whole. Or the anticipation of the fun and riotous colour and music that there will be at Rio 2016, of which we got just a taster at the end of last night’s show.

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Road to 2012: Facing East

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th August, 2012

photos by Joe Bullock and Lucas Seidenfaden

Many of us who live in London’s East End viewed the hosting of this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics with a certain trepidation. And it is true that the Central Line — the quickest way for me to get into the centre of town from my home in Mile End — is hecticly busy at the moment all through the day. The only consolation of having to stand in sweltering conditions in the train is the extraordinary array of often quite beautiful people from all over to world to look at, for every taste. Anyway, though the Games are not quite over yet I think it’s fair to say that they have been a triumph. Moreover, as someone who has little interest in sport, for me the associated Cultural Olympiad, now culminating in the London 2012 Festival, has been spectacular. I have only managed to get to a few events, but they have been varied and stimulating. This morning I went to Four Corners in the Roman Road in Bethnal Green, a centre for film and photography that is currently hosting an exhbition of photos ‘Road to 2012: Facing East’. The work on display is by students in Fine Art and Photography at the University of East London and focuses on how the Games have impacted on the area, particularly Newham. There is an interesting variety of approaches, from Joe Bullock’s take on some of the characters who usually frequent the Lee Valley to Johanna Lees’ portraits of residents of one Stratford Street — all caught looking grave, or at least ambivalent. Contributors to the exhibition come from countries as varied as Cyprus, Germany, Estonia and the United States, with a range of styles and moods which means at least one will really appeal to any viewer. The exibition at Four Corners runs until 9 September and is a London 2012 Festival Project in partnership with the National Potrait Gallery and BT.Link: www.fourcornersfilm.co.uk

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Bojo for PM?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th August, 2012

The euphoria over TeamGB’s triumphs at the London Olympics over the past few days, as well as the boost to national morale that the Games have been giving, has caused a flurry of speculation about whether London Mayor Boris Johnson could become the next leader of the Conservative Party and therefore possibly Prime Minister. He always denies that this is his ambition but I doubt whether he would turn down the opportunity if it came along. Of course, he would have to get back into the House of Commons to do so, but that would not be difficult if a safe Conservative seat comes up at a by-election — definitely not Louise Mensch’s Corby, incidentally! Boris’s great advantage is that he appeals to many non-Tory voters — indeed to many people who don’t normally vote at all, including youngsters. Thus he was able to defy national opinion polls and retain the London mayoralty in May (though Labour made a big mistake in choosing tired and tarnished Ken Livingstone as their candidate again). There is a mixture of brilliance and buffoonery in Boris that is sometimes irritating but often endearing. Who else could have been left dangling from a wire during a slightly misfired stunt near the London Eye at the weekend and keep their reputation intact? And he has a way with words, like a boy’s own cartoon figure. I first came across him in Brussels when he was a boy, as I knew his parents Stanley (a writer then working at the European Commission) and Charlotte (an extraordinary artist). Boris returned to Brussels later for an ill-fated stint as a reporter covering the EU, when he lost his job for not letting facts get in the way of a good story. But his wit and verve and sheer cheek eventually won through, making him now one of the most highly paid newspaper columnists in the country. One thing is certain: in comparison with Boris, David Cameron looks insipid. But does that mean Boris would make a better Prime Minister, despite Cameron’s mistakes in government? That I doubt. One can clown about as Mayor of London; in fact it gives the job some panache. But that’s not an act that would transfer well to 10 Downing Street.

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International Olympic Truce

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 31st July, 2012

London’s 2012’s House of Hellenes (in normal life that bastion of the Conservative Party, the Carlton Club) this lunchtime hosted a panel on the state of the Olympic Truce. For those whose ancient history is a bit rusty or non-existent, this was the truce ordained in Ancient Greece at the time of the original Games at Olympia during which the various city states pledged not to fight each other. There were (probably not deliberate) echos of this in 1914 when fighting in the Great War halted for a brief while and the German and Allied troops facing off against each other in bloody trench warfare in Flanders played a game of football on Christmas Day instead. The run-up to the London2012 Olympics was unusual, in that all 193 member states of the United Nations not only signed but co-sponsored a UN resolution endorsing the Olympic truce. Alas this has not stopped the carnage and brutality in Syria (not to mention Afghanistan and elsewhere). The Syrian Olympic committee was barred from coming to London but there are 10 Syrian athletes here. I asked the distinguished panel how those athletes are interacting with their colleagues in the Olympic Village and how the Olympic Truce movement (if one can call it such) has reacted or should react. The more official members of the panel were unsurprisingly unwilling to say much on that, but Lord (Michael) Bates — who walked from Olympia to London over 10 months to highlight the message of the truce — was more forthcoming. He pointed out that the Syrian athletes, in common with all the others, had signed the Olympic truce and that they should convey that message back to their countrymen. It is interesting that the wall in the Olympic Village, on which people can sign up to express their support, is already completely full. So it probably needs extending! In the meantime, I, along with many others at today’s event, signed my support. Sport is a way of bringing peace between nations and communities and that message should not be lost when the Games themselves are over.

Link: www.olympictruce.org/

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Iftar at Bayt Qatar

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th July, 2012

Many of the competing nations at the London Olympics have hired prestigious venues as their ‘House’ for the length of the competition, as a base for nationals, supporters and guests, with all sorts of events taking place, as well as screenings of the sporting events themselves. This evening I was at Bayt Qatar, the House of the Gulf State of Qatar, which in normal life is the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in Savoy Place, overlooking the River Thames. Part of the ground floor has been converted into a mock-up of Doha’s Souq Waqif and there’s a Sports Bar, offering what you would expect there. As a member of the executive Board of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) I was  not only invited to the iftar (fast-breaking) dinner — Lebanese food courtesy of Harrod’s, now in Qatari ownership — but was also given membership of Bayt Qatar for the duration, which is something I am likely to make use of when I’m in that part of town. After dinner in the 3rd-floor restaurant and a refeshing breather on the terrace, with its fantastic sweeping view of the Thames, I attended a concert in the on-site theatre, starring Qatari singer Fahd Al Kubaisi, Italian tenor Tino Favazza and the zany Spanish gypsy guitarist and singer José Galvez, who wowed the children in the audience by throwing himself around the room like no adult they have ever seen. The finale for me (though not the concert) was a fusion medley of Arabic, Greek, Russian and Cuban influences by the Chehade Brothers. There was a great backing band all the way through, really getting into the spirit of things. Other events at Bayt Qatar over the next fortnight include fashion shows and film screenings.

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