Douglas Alexander: "As Scots we may believe there’s nowhere better – but Friday reminded us there’s something bigger"
Did Danny Boyle’s widely acclaimed Olympic opening ceremony on Friday undermine the SNP’s attempts to break up the UK?
That’s the assertion from one leading light in the “Better Together” campaign, sparking a row over the politicisation of the event.
With the event itself focusing on those great British institutions such as the NHS as well as popular British culture, music and history, one Scottish member of the shadow cabinet has argued that the sense of Britishness the ceremony encapsulated reminded Scots of what they cherished.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander explained:
“Friday’s opening ceremony was a big cultural moment that will impact on our sense of ourselves and politics here in Scotland even after the athletes have headed home. To win the referendum the Nationalists need to convince us that the rest of the UK has become so foreign a place with such different values that we should split apart.
“Friday’s ceremony did something completely different – by attempting to capture and define the essence of Britishness it reminded millions of us what we so cherish.”
“It captured authentically a modern Britishness that is confident, generous, warm, inclusive and funny.
“From the NHS to Gregory’s Girl to Chris Hoy it was about who we are today. As Scots we may believe there’s nowhere better – but Friday reminded us there’s something bigger and why on earth would we want to give up part of who we are?”
Meanwhile, linking the ceremony to the Diamond Jubilee, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, a former contender for the leadership of his party north of the border echoed the sentiments, declaring:
“There is always a danger of reading too much into these things, but I think we have seen a reclamation of British identity over the last year with the Queen’s Jubilee and the passage of the Olympic torch.
“The ceremony wasn’t just about London or about England, it was about the whole of the UK. No matter where they lived, I think people will have associated themselves with a lot of what they saw.”
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Dubbing it a “puerile attempt to politicise the Olympics” a spokesperson for the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond who attended the opening event and who has led a trade delegation to the Games, has responded:
“This puerile attempt to politicise the Olympics certainly wouldn’t win any medals. With the latest poll putting the SNP even further in the lead than last year’s election landslide, and independence ahead of every other constitutional option, Douglas Alexander and his colleagues in the Tory-led anti-independence campaign are clearly getting desperate.”
“The first minister loved every minute of the opening ceremony, and the Olympics are a global celebration of sport – with over 200 nations across the planet fielding the very best of their talent. This is time to get behind our athletes and sportsmen and women and cheer them on to success – Douglas Alexander and his straw-clutching colleagues in the anti-independence campaign would do better just to watch the Games.”
At the Daily Record meanwhile, in its editorial following the spectacular opening event, the Olympics encapsulate a “dream” for Scottish athletes and an opportunity to unite. It explained:
“We will cheer every British success, and the cheers will be even louder for own squad of 54 Scots Olympians and 23 Paralympians. For these men and women, the vast majority unsung and little-known, representing Britain and Scotland on this stage is truly a dream come true.
A dream, of course, founded on sheer hard work and the determination to be the best they can makes each and every one of them a winner, regardless of whether they come home with a medal or not.
“If you are looking for a role model for youngsters, look no further than Team GB and team Scotland.
“Some of us will be lucky enough to watch these athletes in person down in London. The rest of us will watch on TV.
“But even the biggest cynic will struggle not to get caught up in the sheer joy that the Games bring.
“In a troubled modern world, the Games bring an old-fashioned magic which none of the commercial baggage now attached to the event can diminish.
“Let the light shine, let the magic flow. Let history be made and let memories be born of this, the 30th modern Olympiad.”
At the Belfast Telegraph the Danny Boyle’s show provided an opportunity to celebrate the Olympic “ideal” of “celebrating the achievement of taking part.” Its editorial observed:
“The long journey of the Olympic Flame throughout the UK, and also briefly to part of the Irish Republic as well as Northern Ireland, has shown the organisers’ determination to make this a widely inclusive spectacle. The public has responded magnificently by showing the anticipation needed to match the magnitude of this event.
“The ultimate prize of gold, silver and bronze medals will be significant milestones in the careers of each winner, and also a national tally of a country’s collective achievements.
“There are 19 competitors from Northern Ireland taking part with Team GB or Team Ireland, and a strong possibility of several medals coming to this island.
“Some of the fancied hopefuls include rowers Alan Campbell and Peter and Richard Chambers, as well as boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, and cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel.
“Only a minority of competitors can receive medals. But the Olympian ideal is in celebrating the achievement of taking part.
“This will be a time for taking our much-prized seats at the live events, or for watching the proceedings in detail on television. In that sense the historic London Olympics 2012 will show that everyone can be a winner.”