I watched the broadcast of the opening of the London Olympics (I know, I know, I’m supposed to employ the pretentious, ostentatious official title which must be something like The Games of the XXX Olympiad from London, England, United Kingdom, Ruled by Displaced Saxe-Coburgs Renamed Windsor and Brought to You By Juan Antonio Samaranch and MacDonald’s, but I’ve shortened it here for convenience). I was delighted to see that a central image in the massive diorama that depicted the history of Britain (leaving out the bits about conquering vast territories) was Glastonbury Tor. I wrote about the Tor in a previous post (CLICK HERE), describing a visit I made to Glastonbury many years ago.
The Tor is a hill that rises dramatically out of the low-lying countryside. I have to think that Danny Boyle, the director of the gargantuan ceremony, chose to build the Tor into the countryside as a reminder to the Greeks and Chinese who recently celebrated their thousands of years of cultural history that Britons, too, have a heritage that reaches back into the ages. He might also have chosen Stonehenge, or any other number of ancient sites. But the Tor has a history that extends from pagan times well into the modern era, and, besides, is overlaid with multiple tales, legends and unknown mysteries. It has the distinction of figuring prominently in both the pagan and Christian eras, Glastonbury being the legendary site of King Arthur’s Avalon, as well as the supposed destination of Joseph of Arimathea and the young Jesus, as well as the resting place of the Holy Grail. (See my earlier post and the Wikipedia entry for more.)
There was a tree on top of the Tor in the ceremony depiction, which might be assumed to be the Glastonbury Thorn, which is said to have sprung from Joseph’s staff. The association of a tree and Jesus is, of course, highly emblematic. The actual Glastonbury Thorn is not on the Tor. It’s on the grounds of the Abbey, in the town. Artistic license, one assumes. There’s more in my previous post link, above.
AND since the place is associated with (and many local names derive from) the native Celtic culture, the Tor served as a link to those Scots, Irish and Welsh lads and lasses we heard singing in their native Celtic languages in the opening portion. Never want to leave the often disgruntled components of the Union out of any significant event in Britain, if one knows what’s what.
All-in-all, it was a neat symbol for wrapping up many of the threads of Great Britain’s culture.
I was also gratified that they had Shakespeare. How could they not? As soon as Mr. Branagh had spoken three words, The Counselor displayed her astounding command of the Bard’s work by saying, “The Tempest!” What a show-off. She was right, of course. (I checked. It’s Act III, scene 2. It’s Caliban speaking to Ariel, Trinculo and Stephano.)
It would be interesting to know how many of these associations were familiar even to the Britons present. I’m certain it was baffling to most of the other 4 billion viewers, especially the card-reading sports commentators, who were obviously flummoxed by the whole thing unless their interns had given them something to read.
I got a big kick out of that. I was perplexed by the latter part with all the pop music. I recognized the music, but I didn’t do very well on the story line. The projection on the big “house” was truly bodacious, but then some old geezer named McCartney came out to end the show. Anyone ever heard of him?
© 2012 Brad Nixon