The morning after the night before I was still trying to make sense of the wailing of “Welcome to Scotland” whilst a Jurassic Park style 4×4 raced around iconic symbols propped up by tacky commercialisation via tin cans and surrounded by fattening sweeties bouncing around the Celtic Park turf (some might argue- no change there then). Even worse, the 4×4 passed through a tyre made out to look like tyres made by the widely believed inventor of the tyre. With RW Thomson of Stonehaven being the first to patent the tyre it was clear this show was going to be about commercial symbolism and crass quasi culture over correctness or class.
When I did reflect back on it I wondered if it was some Baz Luhrmann type attempt to put an even more eclectic spin on Trainspotting and that the tripping scene from the iconic movie had reached new heights. Alas, this was not about being flushed down a lavy to chase a lost suppository. No, this was Scotland’s welcome to the world- a reflection on who we are and what we do. One thing we do all to well is criticise and self deprecate, a sad incitement on the underdog nation. And so, on writing this article I wanted to ensure I was positive.
Two things were welcome and struck a chord with many. The first was the entry of the Braemar Highland Games pipe bands. Although there is a slight shortbread tin, tartanification of Scotland via this imagery (the Highland bag pipes they are blowing up orally were not as commonly used historically as the traditional Lowland bagpipes of antiquary; the tartans worn do not date back to the days of Wallace, Bruce and a’ that; and Flower of Scotland is a song that dates back decades). However, this was more what Scotland could and should offer the world. It would maybe have been a bit ‘aye been’ but it is what people expected and it is what people wanted. Moreover, to turn to another Scottish trait, it is nae that expensive.
The second thing that warmed my heart was the charitable connection raising funds for children less well off than those watching the programme on flat screen TVs or via smart phones or tablet technology. Whilst some tweeted about the irony of this charitable gesture being launched from once the areas with the lowest social economic declines in Europe, we cannot deny the difference in material poverty between the kids left in Glasgow slums (or modern day equivalents) and some of the poorest children in the Commonwealth is almost immeasurable. Anything which raised money those children less well of than ourselves is to be commended. They are our future and charity is as much a trait of Scottishness as tartan, tea cakes and trainspotting!
The Orwellian tanoy messages instructing people within the stadium and across the world to donate now was a bit scary as the celebrities on the Hampden pitch pulled out their smart phones and feigned (and in some cases did actually) ‘text’ their donation.
So with two positives in the Braemar Games input and the UNICEF appeal I can say that two out of three ain’t bad. Three out of three would have been brilliant. What better way to start the games than have a simple launch with Highland dancers, pipe bands, Auld Lang Syne and a couple of high profile bands followed by a real contribution to the Common Weal. How about if the tannoy have announced, in a slightly more soft and gentle voice:-
“The launch of the London Olympic Games Coast £x million, the launch of the last Commonwealth Games cost £x million, the cost to have a light, sound and firework display here in Glasgow would have been £x million. We here in Scotland have done something different. We have welcomed you here in true Scottish style. Scotland is a country where people matter. And so, the total cost of £x million that it would have cost for a firework sound and light display this evening has been donated to UNICEF to help other less well off then us here tonight. And now, we are going to ask you to do the same.”
Now that would have been a true reflection of Scotland- Common Weal and the sort of Common Sense Scotland should be renowned for. Maybe the Closing Ceremony will bring such joined up thinking, heartfelt leadership and charitable spirit.
Meantime, to return to trainspotting tripping scene. It would have been worse- they could have blown up a set of flats! Thankfully that did not happen. Maybe at that part of the planning meeting they were hearing forgotten voices from Scottish History, “the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity and with maturity.” (Jimmy Reid).
PostScript. Now that the opening ceremony artefacts are being auctioned. Let’s hope money raised here goes to good causes or recoups some of the public expense on items noted above.