Things are different in America - still. Despite all the togetherness of the internet and super-easy air travel, you can even today be surprised (for good or ill) at what's going across the Atlantic. This blog, borrowing its title from the legendary Alistair Cooke, aims to keep you in the picture about things you might not otherwise know.
Sitting here in the US, gnawing my my fingernails in frustration at not being able to see Mo Farah’s s amazing 5000-metre victory, I was rewarded instead with a documentary entitled “Their finest hour” with Tom Brokaw , in NBC’s Olympic time slot.
No , it wasn’t about the achievements of Britain’s 2012 Olympians. It was about the courage of Brits 72 years ago in the London blitz (with Nazi bombs raining down on what has now become Olympic territory).
The battle of Britain, Winston Churchill, the King and Queen staying on in the capital ; they were all in the Brokaw movie.
It was actually a great compliment to Britain - symptomatic of the UK mania that has developed in the US for Britain of late, following the Royal wedding , the Queen’s Jubilee and of course the spectacular Olympics themselves.
Nonetheless “Their finest hour” brought a hail of vitriol down on NBC, who have doggedly stuck to the policy keeping the big events “tape-delayed” for primetime. Actress Mia Farrow was one of those outraged Olympic fans: She tweeted :
What's the deal #NBC??? It's 8:47 and no Olympic coverage yet? We're getting a 45 minute lecture on WW2 #nbcfail
For me, clicking to the BBC channel brought no relief: a still picture of Mo with an apology , “Sorry we can’t broadcast the video in your area.”
Yet , despite this carping, the triumph of the London Olympics has been complete and given Britain an enormous boost . From the progress of the torch the length of the country , to the gold-painted pillarboxes, it’s all been a delight. The New York Times has a pic of Jessica’s box in Sheffield , with a queue of people waiting to have their picture taken.
Rachel Dempsey, the manager of the bar next to the golden mailbox, told the Times “This town’s gone mental.”
As the NYT put it, “After months and months of high unemployment and stern austerity, crooked bankers and shady journalists, and the hangover of riots that set parts of London on fire, the idea of a national revel seemed almost laughable...
“it was almost a sport in itself to point out every budget overrun and logistical hiccup as evidence of the disaster that would naturally follow on such an earnest enterprise as the Olympic Games.
“And yet as the Games come to a close, here in Sheffield as well as all over Britain, a patriotic delirium has descended."
It started on Aug 1 when the cyclist Bradley Wiggins, the first Briton to win the Tour de France, became the only rider to have won the Tour and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
The golds continued: seven more in cycling, four in rowing, three in equestrian. Andy Murray’s tennis victory at Wimbledon.
“What had been a balmy Olympic fever became a roiling epidemic on Aug. 4," said the Times, "when the British had their greatest night of track success ever, with a gold in the long jump, Britain’s first gold in the 10,000 meters and Ennis’s golden smile coming across the finish line in the final event of the heptathlon. With that, the whole of Britain seemed nearly to come unglued.”
Who would have thought it!
In my view, however, the really smart move, however, was calling it Great Britain. Whoever thought of that really deserves a medal. You can be sure it wasn’t one of Alex Salmond’s speechwriters.
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